From Bricks to Clicks and back again
I'm sitting in a non descript coffee shop in Melbourne putting together some thoughts on Internet Retailing, a smiling waitress brings my coffee and BLT across to "table 23".
As we know the only reason a business exists is to service a customer - the rest, accounting, production, operations etc is just how you achieve that position.
"God this is good!", the sandwich I've just bitten into is fresh - it melts in my mouth. I sip my coffee "ohhhh fantastic". That's what I love about Melbourne, 9/10 times you get a great coffee - whether it's the weather being cooler than Sydney or just greater competition raising the standard? Who knows?
From a retail marketing perspective - Yes online social media has fundamentally changed corporate communications and the advertising landscape BUT the fundamentals of customer service are still the same.
Most business simply treat the web like a brochure - smart internet retailers treat it like a store.
Why do less than 40% of small businesses have a website? Why are most websites boring?
Most websites don't engage with their visitor, they're boring and driven by technologists not business owners.
"Hi Max, would you like another coffee?"
Hmmm, the only way they knew my name was when I ordered 40 minutes ago - nice personal touch. I speak with the owner, there are over 150 coffee shops within a 500m radius - every small details counts - word of mouth is critical. Customers now travel several blocks.
With so many web developers and new media gurus out there it makes you naturally ask the question how many have ever run a real bricks n mortar business dealing face to face with a demanding public?
Key point to understand is that social media technologies are just a series of new tools, like a carpenter has a nail gun and electric saw. To get results you still need to know the theory to know how to knock a frame together and integrate into the rest of the building.
The new web is social - the challenge is to engage, not force your message down everyone's throat.
The only thing really new here is the speed and ease in which people easily share good and bad experiences.
As a business you either choose to ignore or embrace your communities.
There is an investment to make in online customer engagement and most businesses don't get it. Business need to realise that today many new customer first impressions and interactions are through their website and with average conversions of 1% (and best practice of 15%) there certainly is room for improvement.
Drive from a customer perspective - a builder has to follow an architects plans - an engineer makes sure it's structure is sound.
The architect designs based on the clients (your) needs and desires - not what is going to win them an award!
Many businesses will not get results of their online programs because of poorly thought through strategy and selection.
How does your website connect with the rest of your marketing and corporate communications?
The challenge for retailers is to make their websites as engaging as their stores (should be).