Forbes, it seems, now agrees with us – we think that's pretty cool. In a recent article contributor Steve Dennis almost verbatim echos our sentiment : that consumers no longer care about where they are experiencing your brand. Just that they can experience it whenever and wherever they want. On their own time and schedule.
We have been witnessing the lines blurring when making the distinction between ecommerce and traditional bricks and mortar retail, it's been going on for years. So much so we decided to eliminate ecommerce as a pure and distinct section in our website well over two years ago, instead bringing together the elements on in-store retail, wholesale, supply chain management with online sales (ecommerce).
Importantly, this evolution has never been about the death of retail in the traditional sense. The human contact afforded by in-person experience is still something we desire as social creatures. At the same time, the value we place on the experience of in store shopping along side the immediacy of in the moment online browsing is a key element so many retailers struggle to grasp and embrace, especially those with a long history in one or the other.
In the recent article here at the iTMG Blog, "Everything, Everywhere", we talked about some key thought processses business owners, even medium businesses seem to use to box themselves in before even contemplating how their complete traditional-with-digital presence impacts their positioning. The problem with the mindset, interestingly, had more to do with a lack of understanding of the digital medium(s) and instead, pigeonholing themselves into a simple "old fashioned" way of looking at business, digital positioning, and the art of being present for your customer's every whim.
Some of the biggest oversimplifications we've encountered:
"I'm a local business" – Not really, no you aren't anymore. While we always hope that your local community values you, your local identity and contributions to your city or town, evidence shows that the level of loyalty to you is limited. It's limited by price; your local customers will tolerate a premium to support local, but only just barely. It's limited by convenience; 24/7 omnichannel experience is still king of the castle. If you can't serve your local community surfing on their phones in the wee hours, there's going to be someone who can and they're probably not local and your customers don't care.
"I provide added value and expertise they can't get online" – This is a good one because there is usually some truth to this. However, this doesn't absolve you of making your presence and expertise felt digitally, it's part of the larger cause. Even if your impact is intended to attract your geographically-local customers, by thinking more broadly, nationally, internationally, your impact on your region will be more complete and competitive.
"My vendors don't let me sell my inventory online" – This is an ever-evolving relationship and policy tug of war with vendors, but it still doesn't shut the door on having a comprehensive and dynamic online catalogue. Even if you're not allowed to sell and ship items, having a well managed and complete online catalogue is better than any SEO effort you can get. If gives you a very real and tangible tie-in to product, descriptions and use cases your customers are looking for. With a proper POS ECommerce Integrated system this gives you a footprint of thousands of pages of ever-changing content you can use to initiate customer contact, inquiries, installation consultations, upsell opportunities, the list is endless, you just have to be there.
"I just want a website" – No, you don't. You want sales, profit, and growth. The moment you've categorized your digital tool down to "website", is the moment you categorized your business down to "same ol' same ol'".
Your customer service is everywhere now. All the time. There is a feeling you give your customers when they can experience your brand, their account, your offerings, and yes, how to buy from you, whenever they want. This is not the same as saying you must sell things online, not all businesses will fit a shipped product model. But it doesn't mean you can ignore your customer's desire to read up on your wisdom and learn, listen to your podcast, see their invoices, buy an ebook, pay for a new consulting service, schedule an appointment the list goes on. Everything really is everywhere now, and it is all commerce one way or the other – just make sure you're motivated to help your clients first from a place of "service" to your clients and the commerce will come; you and your systems just need to be ready for it.