Monday, March 04, 2013

E-tailing vs. Retailing

For hundreds of years the concept of shopping has stayed the same.  The consumers shop in the retail store of their choice interacts with sales associates and spends their money. Shopping within a brick-and-mortar store is a different experience from shopping online.  Up until recently shopping within the retail store was the norm.  Retailers have to create their brand and the retail sales floor as to reflect that specific brand.  However, with the popularity of online shopping in the past decade, the act of shopping has shifted drastically.  Now instead of venturing outside, consumers can shop from wherever the internet is available.  This recent shift in retailing may pose a problem for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers but it could also be beneficial depending on how each retailer embraces the e-business movement.
Even with the constant growth of e-businesses, brick-and-mortar stores are not obsolete.  Consumers still want to shop in the retail stores and have that experience.  As more consumers become more accustomed to shopping online, it is a smart move for “traditional” retailers. Holt Renfrew is high end Canadian retailer that could be considered “traditional”.  Currently, they do not offer online shopping to their customers; however they have embraced social networking as well.  Currently they have a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube accounts.  Social media is a great way for the more “traditional” retailers to keep their customers interested in the brand.  Holt Renfrew’s brand image is one of ultimate luxury, hence the slogan “There’s no place like Holts”.  This is a great example of a brand that has used social media to interact with their consumers, gaining their feedback and ultimately getting them excited about their next visit within the store.  According to the article Bye-bye Brick and Mortar? (June 1st, 2011) 90% of sales are still occurring in stores.
That being said, social networking and e-businesses have the potential to reach a wider market.   Due to the ever-growing percentage of people with access to the Internet it is easier to for retailers to constantly stay connected to their potential customers with updates on new merchandise or special deals.  Many retailers that have embraced the technology movement have used email newsletters as ways to keep their customers informed of what is currently going on within the company.  Embracing this technological movement will help companies expand their customer base, which could lead to more sales revenue.  Building relationships with consumers is key to maintaining sales goals, when a customer enjoys shopping with a particular retailer it is usually because they enjoyed that particular retailer’s services.  This is where online shopping falters; it is harder to build customer relationships through a computer screen.  Most e-businesses have customer services that are available to customers 24/7.  Most interactions through email or the phone are not the same as interacting with sales associates in the store.  Also, there will always be returns whether the retailer is online or an e-business.  It is easier to fix any problems that the customer may have with the merchandise when it is in a store setting, turning that issue into a positive experience for the customer so that they shop in the store again.  However, online it is harder when a customer is not satisfied with their purchase and they have to send back their purchases in the mail.  There are more opportunities here for the customer to have a bad experience that could lead to them going elsewhere.
Social media links millions of people together.  It is the smartest marketing strategy a company can use to interact with loyal customers and create relationships and follow up.  Many retailers have struggled through the dire economic times and with the trend of social media it is easier for retailers to understand who their customer is, what they want to see in the stores and any follow up to make sure they are happy with their experience and purchases.  Social media is especially suiting when a retailer has any special contests or events occurring that they want to draw interest to.  More so now, there is a focus on the relationships with the customers supposed to just making another sale.  “Traditional” retailers now have competition with other brick-and-mortar stores and e-businesses online; this leaves an opportunity for retailers to get creative within their marketing channels and use social media sites to their advantage.  Most also show how many people are following the page which helps retailers figure out how many fans they have as well as much interest there is for their business.  According to, there are 1.2 Billion Facebook users worldwide (early 2012).  With e-businesses there are no borders that could be 1.2 billion customers.

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