By Ian Jindal, experienced multichannel retailer and Editor-in-Chief of InternetRetailing.
2016 has been a landmark year for the country. The UK has decided to leave the European Union (EU), ending its 43-year membership.
Despite huge speculation surrounding the UK's exit from the EU, and the possible impact this will have for every industry, one thing is certain, there will inevitably be new challenges, as well as opportunities, for retailers to capitalise.
For retailers to remain competitive a contingency plan needs to be put in place. Forward thinking is needed to foresee what new horizons are coming into sight and what key trends will keep on transforming the internet commerce landscape and the bathroom and kitchen retail industry. So, where should multichannel businesses now focus their attention as they plan for a more uncertain future?
In the UK, mobile commerce is rapidly growing and is proving to be a key driver of retail sales growth. In June 2016, according to IMRG figures, mobile sales rose by 69% compared to the previous year. That contributed to 17% growth in overall online sales.
Bigger smartphone screens, mobile optimised websites and easier payment processes have helped facilitate the increase in mobile commerce sales. Previously, shopping on your mobile was a difficult and complex task. However, now you can select, order and pay for goods and services with just a few easy clicks.
For example, IRUK Top 500 retailer, Wayfair, has seen great growth in its e-commerce sales and this has largely been driven by its mobile offering. 38% of all orders placed during Q2 2016 for the company were made on mobile devices.
Wayfair is further investing in its mobile presence with the launch of its augmented reality (AR) app next month, which allows users to view appliances for sale on Wayfair as if placed throughout their home. Such innovation attracts more consumers to the mobile commerce vertical and offers them a feature that they would otherwise not have been able to get online or even instore.
Matalan, another recognised IRUK Top 500 Retailer, has also focused on the ecommerce retail market as part of its expansion. The retailer, more known for its fashion and homeware offerings, has opened an online only store, Matalan Direct, selling bathroom fixtures and bathroom furniture. This shows that not only are retailers offering their products online, but that the online channel is at times leading the way as retailers explore new product offerings.
Opening an online only store offers Matalan significant cost savings, particularly given the fact that bathroom showrooms require substantial floor space. This allows Matalan to offer consumers greater choice, while also remaining affordable.
In future, individual retailers will keep innovation at their core to consider even more deeply how mobile can best work for their businesses.
Marketplaces have proven to be a great shopping platform for consumers with a wide offer range of new and second-hand products as well as great value prices. For this reason, it is no surprise that leading marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon have become so popular with consumers, and are now household names worth billions of pounds.
Marketplaces are important for retailers as well, as they move into new markets. Retailers that are looking to attract new customers are increasingly making themselves more visible and partnering with various online marketplaces, often specific to new regions. For instance, Tmall and its parent company Alibaba are often used by European brands who are looking to gain access to the Chinese market
Marketplaces are also a great opportunity for independent sellers or manufacturers, offering them a platform to showcase their products. We are increasingly seeing more marketplace vendors specialising in bathroom and kitchen appliances, with vendors establishing a reputable presence on marketplaces such as Amazon. For example, 'iBathUK' has an established presence on both Amazon and eBay, with over 280,000 sales on the two platforms.
The lower overhead costs associated with marketplaces, allows vendors such as iBathUK, to offer their customers greater value and lower prices and the added benefit of the review system, gives consumers the confidence to believe in the product and to trust the vendor.
Traders developing strategies around marketplaces will need to be asking questions about how they can best make these sites work for them. How, for example, do they fit into their international strategies? How should they adapt their merchandising and data collection as they look to make the most not only of the new customers that marketplaces bring them but also of the information they can gain about this new market and how customers see its brand?
Marketplaces may be a useful part of engaging with shoppers in new markets, but they're likely to be only a part of the strategy.
To truly grow, retailers need to expand their offering so they can reach customers across the globe. International sales have often been limited in the bathroom and kitchens retail industry due to the potential difficulties in delivery logistics for large items.
Therefore, retailers such a Wayfair have expanded their operations and now cater for the US, UK, Canada and Germany through specific websites, tailored to each territory. They also have distribution centres in each country, increasing proximity to consumers, improving delivery speed and saving money.
The UK's exit from the European Union has resulted in the value of the British Pound falling against the Euro. This will make British products and goods cheaper for European customers, potentially increasing the sales from that region. UK retailers need to take advantage of this by actively promoting their products to European consumers online and also keeping an eye on the future, setting a long-term plan to foresee repercussions regarding foreign providers and materials used.
Mobile, marketplaces and international strategy are only some of the New Horizons that will be explored at the 11th annual InternetRetailing Conference, taking place on October 12th at Novotel, Hammersmith in London.
Speakers like Melanie Frutig, eCommerce Manager of Electrolux; Leah Zhang, International Business Development at Alibaba Group; Michael Durbridge and Director of Omnichannel of B&Q; among others, will explore latest trends in ecommerce, market strategy and best technologies to help retailers expand their business.
Find out more and register at www.internetretailingconference.com
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