If you're a retailer who invested in your online channel pre-pandemic there seems to be a glimmer of hope as ideation around consumer experience is at last starting to get retailers to recognise that if the customer can't come to them, they must go to where the consumer is, for now!

Over this past year I've tried to find green shoots of optimism for multi-channel retailers around the world in the form of taking a 'problem - solution' approach to writing these blogs.

As the pandemic gathered pace we were reminded on a daily basis of the ripple effect across many sectors in relation to not only business closures but also the human element.

Some 15 years ago I was lucky enough to obtain a global patent for something we called 'Interactive Store Window' that was designed to;

  • Catch passers by to physically 'interact' with the store window
  • Provide an element of 'retail theatre' and entertain.
  • Capture permission based data to 'keep in touch' long after they have gone.

All very exciting, and yes we made a few headlines, the patent was awarded for the data collection element - and we never made a penny from it because we were slightly ahead of our time and the country was still on dial up.

As a die hard retailer I innately believe it is our job to innovate ways to engage, immerse, and entertain the consumer by drawing them to us over our nearest competitor.  

Call me old fashioned but the growth in the US driven initiative for 'Black Friday' followed by 'Cyber Monday' was always somewhat of an irritation to me. 

It smacked of the same issues that started the demise of department store group 'Debenhams' with their 'Blue Cross' events. 

These promotional campaigns designed to drive consumers to them over the competition eventually encouraged the consumer to hold fire on any purchases until the 'Blue Cross' event was announced and along with it all those discounts.

As footfall continues to be a challenge for physical retail we have been seeing staggeringly little innovation other than more discounting from brands desperate to offload stockpiles in stores, warehouses, and supply chain commitments.

Add into the mix that the UK is also suffering from a logistics challenge in relation to a shortage of qualified lorry drivers. At time of writing (September) we are being advised we might have to choose between food or presents this Christmas.

So before you press the button on that 'Black Friday or Cyber Monday' campaign think about how many customers you might let down and the related cost and impact on your own internal logistics for handling wave after wave of complaints and refunds as opposed to those transactions you're keen to bank.

Retailers had been toying with features such as video chats and livestreaming to make e-commerce more pleasant and personable even before the coronavirus forced store closures.

Today for many the online shopping experiment is pivoting from hype to a longer-term strategy. 

My guess is those that understand how best to 'leverage' social media, along with other consumer engagement techniques such as 'live streaming' and as featured in the article in the link below your own personal online 'sales associate' will be the brands of the future.

Every - single - one - of - your customers - are - on - SOCIAL MEDIA!

That is unless you have bought into the hype that retail is dying and not re-inventing itself.