APOCALYPSE is defined as “An event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale.” Everywhere you read—that’s what the media is reporting—the latest stating we should expect over 8,600 retail storefronts to close this year:
“Brokerage firm Credit Suisse said in a research report released earlier this month that it’s possible more than 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores will close their doors in 2017.
For comparison, the report says 2,056 stores closed in 2016 and 5,077 were shuttered in 2015. The worst year on record is 2008, when 6,163 stores shut down.”
There are many reasons why this is happening,
- The era of easy money created a hugely overbuilt retail complex, everywhere.
- Everyone is buying more on-line (I’ll discuss this further in this blog).
- Amazon – More on this later, too.
- The Gift Card phenomenon – It’s “easier” to just give cash, than hassle with the shopping experience, or lack thereof.
But I’m going to focus on just two of them: The Online experience and one not mentioned, the “lack of” acceptance of integrating technology into the retail experience
Online shopping is most often cited as the major problem for brick-and-mortar retail stores. Online sales now account for about 13 percent of all retail sales, and it’s going nowhere but UP!
“Our business is rapidly evolving in response to changes in the way customers are shopping across stores, desktops, tablets and smartphones,” explained Terry Lundren, Macy’s chief executive officer. “We must continue to invest in our business to focus on where the customer is headed – to prepare for what’s next.”
In my opinion, this is an indicator that all retailers MUST be aware of and change now. If the Big Guys are feeling the heat, with all their money and access to technology, what’s a smaller retailer to do? The fact remains, consumers want to shop/buy locally, but retailers seem to stay focused on “price” to drive sales instead of technology.
I work, directly and indirectly with many small and medium sized retailers and they still have NO CLUE why their business is down. Oh yeah, it’s always this or that, but when I question them as to what they are investing in to mitigate their circumstance, the answer is always the same …HOPE.
Many people ignore the home furnishing’s industry as a barometer of what’s happening in retail everywhere. I believe the reason is that this category is primarily known for one marketing strategy and tactic… EVERYTHING IS ON SALE – SAVE 50%-70% STORE WIDE. You get it, right? Well you may be shocked that furniture is a $100-billion category and the home furnishing’s category is over $280 billion. Not so irrelevant when you recognize these types of numbers.
10 years ago, there were approximately 61,000 furniture/home furnishing stores, today that number has dwindled to around 40,000. Most of the loss came to local Mom & Pop brick and mortar retailers. If you look at any retail focused industry, you’ll find the same holds true.
Many blame the expansion of regional and national retailers invading their turf. Because those retailers are beholden to their stakeholders, they had to open more stores, increase revenues and profits to keep them placated. I call this the “commoditization of everything.” You know, sameness in virtually every market, and now that strategy is quickly experiencing the RetailAPOCALYPSE.
History too often repeats itself, usually masked in the degree of sophistication as to how it repeats itself, by committing the same stupid mistakes, with different rationale, excuses, or just plain ignorance or arrogance of the facts for whatever reason.
We are facing the “commoditization of everything” in every industry—no brands, limited content for consumers to search/find on retailers and brand websites, messaging that focuses on price and “cheap,” and the blatant rejection of new technologies and consumer buying trends in creating sales velocity. These rejections, or refusal to even listen and learn new ways of doing business, are mainly because the small and medium retailers use cheap selling propositions and cheap or no investments in technology that can save them money AND make them money!
Let’s Talk about the Online Phenomenon – Websites
Why does Amazon dominate? Two of many reasons: content and artificial intelligence. They have over 110,000,000 pages indexed on their website, which translates into consumers being able to find unique stuff that they want – not the commoditized stuff large retailers decide that you want and push out everywhere. That’s a key reason why so many national retailers are crashing. It’s because they are commoditizing everything and probably guessing at that, too.
Our small and medium retailers balk at the cost of a great website loaded with everything they have “open to buy.” Most want to show on their website only what they have in their store, maybe 2,000 SKU’s, depending on the store size. The excuse we hear time and again? “I don’t do special order.” That’s plain NONSENSICAL, how can you compete when that’s all Amazon does! Amazon special orders all 110,000,000 pages of selling, DUH! So, by retailers not embracing this strategy and not doing this, they automatically defer what “I/YOU want” to Amazon, or another on-line resource that has “what I want” available (and delivered in a couple of days).
I know of companies that offer website solutions loaded with tens and tens of thousands of SKU’s for around $700/month … and in my category, retailers think that’s way too expensive. Hmmmm, I wonder if this is another reason the store count in the home furnishing’s category, and other independent retailer categories has dropped so significantly. Another Aha! moment maybe? You know… that point in time, event, or experience when one has a sudden insight or realization? Unfortunately, that Aha! moment today seems to be more focused on GOB or liquidation sale because they didn’t, or refused to, adapt to the tools available … again, the Ignorance of Arrogance.
Another key reason Amazon is crashing the brick and mortar party is their use of AI (Artificial Intelligence). You know, you click on a product and then the page is automatically populated with similar/like products, sorted by color, attributes, past searches etc. How many times have you searched for a specific product on Amazon and ended up buying a recommended product instead?
Just the concept of AI scares the small and medium retailers because they perceive it’s too complicated or expensive. IT’S NOT. An example in the home furnishings category is a new company ThinkDeeply whose solution is a few lines of code embedded on product category pages and runs around $100/month.
Why would anyone not try this? The numbers are proven. AI is everywhere: Your Smartphone, websites, Siri, Google Home, etc. WHY? Simple: it Connects Inspiration to Action
- Increases Engagement by 5x
- Increases Conversion by 3x
- Lowers Data Maintenance Costs
- Average Cart Performance Item Value Increases up to 40 percent
And this technology runs around $100/month and they’ll set it up for you FREE and even give you a free trial to prove it works! What’s your excuse for not trying this?
Ok that’s on your website, how about your brick and mortar retail store?
Another company that offers technological solutions for retails is iConnect Group
As an example, retailers I know use a “best guess” as to how and when they staff their stores. They even designate an individual to do store traffic counts. What does that cost them in salary, benefits, etc., do you think? iConnect has a solution for around $100/month – yep you read it correctly and their system is 99 percent accurate. This allows retailers to effectively plan their staffing and more:
- The ability to see real visitor counts, number of buying groups
- The visibility into repeat visitors
- Eliminate counting sales people in daily traffic
- Visibility into data by gender and age group
- The visibility for store owners to plan for staffing levels in the stores during the week days, weekends and holidays
- The ability for store owners and managers to see SPG, Conversion Ratios, and Close Percentage
They also have an amazing technology that can HEAT-MAP your store to show where customers spend their time, so you’ll be able to gauge what merchandise is HOT (Pun intended) vs. what’s not.
And they have more technologies that take the guess work out of your business. Technological solutions for salespeople, merchandisers, store owners, warehouse managers, logistical solutions, and more. And the guy who has created all of these solutions comes from a retail background, so he’s an insider, not an outsider.
And again, this company is so confident in the results you’ll get, they’ll give you a free trial. If it doesn’t work, they’ll refund any expenses you’ve incurred. Again why wouldn’t you try this?
This isn’t my first RANT about how inexpensive technologies can change brick and mortar retail. I wrote about Live Video Chat, how WI-FI can help, new technologies for product photography and more, all of which can save you money while making you money.
Today, retailers rely on what they think, at the expense of what technology can define and quantify.
How much will implementing technology into your day to day business save you, NOT cost you?
The problem retailers face today is the Arrogance Of Ignorance. They don’t research what technologies are out there, they don’t engage with technology companies to challenge them to help them show more and sell more, instead they engage in The Race to The Bottom, EVERYTHING IS ON SALE and the consumer isn’t buying it.
That’s why we are experiencing
The arrogance of ignorance, once again defined.
Author: Bill Napier has been in the Marketing Industry for over 35 years and is currently the Managing Partner at Napier Marketing Group, Inc.
Furniture Today Magazine has labeled Bill Napier as being a “serial disruptor” in the home furnishing industry and he loves that moniker!
In the 90’s, Bill’s marketing agency PMA Network (Promotional Marketing Associates, Inc.), with offices in Minneapolis and Chicago, launched many consumer brands, as well as being a strategic consultant for The Times Square Millennium Celebration.
He was hired by Ashley Furniture in 2000 as their Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and was blessed to be part of their astronomic growth from $800MM – $2.7BN over his 5-year tenure.
He has also worked with two other furniture brands as CMO. He has been an industry consultant since 2007 and with his company Napier Marketing Group has developed and managed some of the largest promotions ever done in the industry.
Bill has developed and maintains the largest aggregated marketing informational website for retailers and brands.