As part of their battle plans against Amazon, midsized retailers are investing in cross-channel capabilities that leverage their brick-and-mortar stores, robust e-commerce capabilities, and multiple marketing initiatives.
But the secret lies in complete integration between these channels, ensuring seamless interoperability for consumers no matter whether they opt to browse in a store and purchase online, click a Facebook link and visit the mall, or conduct the entire experience from their iPads. Any discordant notes in any of the steps spells disaster for the shopper -- and the retailer, cautioned RSR Research.
Regardless of your personal take on the viability of the “showrooming” phenomenon, consumers still want -- and need -- to visit stores. For the best-performing and most forward-thinking multi-channel retailers, that ability to close a sale in whichever channel is most convenient and meaningful to the consumer and the way she lives is exactly how they will continue to compete with Amazon. However, this strategy only works if the paths to purchase -- all of them -- are completely interoperable. Winners understand this at a disproportionate rate and are investing to make sure their systems, supply chain, and inventory are aligned to make this a reality.
Amazon itself has considered opening physical stores. In a recent interview with CBS's Charlie Rose, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said:
We would love to but only if we can have a truly differentiated idea. We don't do a me-too product offering very well. When I look at physical retail stores, it's very well served. The people who operate physical retail stores are very good at it. The question we would always have before we would embark on such an thing is what's the idea, what would we do that would be different, how would it be better... we don't want to be redundant.
Some retail giants, including WalMart, have stopped selling Kindle in a preemptive strike against Amazon. After all, Amazon may open a retail bookstore, Forbes reported in June.
Smaller stores may not have the luxury of banning particular suppliers, however. Instead, they are competing by providing customers with a better end-to-end experience, no matter how and where the consumer wants to shop. That means a tight working relationship between the retailer's IT department, purchasing, store management, customer support, and everyone else involved in getting product into the store and out into shoppers' hands.
Rather than look at Amazon as a barrier, consider the giant as a springboard to opportunity. The retail giant has knocked down many commerce walls, but one of its main effects has been to negate many users' fear of online shopping. Pre-Amazon, so many people were nervous about using their credit cards to buy from an e-tailer. Today, whether they're downloading an e-book for their Kindle or purchasing a batting machine from Amazon.com, consumers will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars online with one click.
Take that freedom to shop online, blend it with a tightly integrated multi-channel approach, the right array of products, and a great sales team, and you've got a winning combination.
— Alison Diana , ThinkerNet Editor, Internet Evolution