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Forget the ‘retail apocalypse’ and seize the opportunity

By Wanda Cadigan , Wednesday, January 3, 2018

 

Now is the time for brands to build lifelong relationships with customers.

E-commerce Insights blog

Welcome to the second post in our Commerce blog series, in which we share the forward-leaning insights of our partners, customers, and commerce executives. This post first appeared in eMarketer’s “Key Trends in Ecommerce Roundup 2017,” which was sponsored by Sitecore.

 

Take a deep breath. Relax. No matter what you may have read in the media, reports of a “retail apocalypse” are grossly exaggerated.

Yes, there’s a major digital transformation under way, spurred on by innovation that’s happening in online marketplaces. As many savvy retailers realize, there’s a tremendous growth opportunity ahead for brands who want to build deeper, lasting ties with customers.

While latest figures show Amazon cornering 43% of the online retail market, it’s important to remember that online sales still only account for about 8.9 percent of all U.S. retail sales, according to the Department of Commerce. That means over 90 percent of retail sales still happen in the offline world.

The greatest myth is that the battle for online retail is already over. It’s only just begun.

This helps to explain why the biggest online marketplace players like Amazon and Alibaba.com are extending to the offline world. Alibaba founder Jack Ma is currently building a five-story mall in his hometown. Why? Because while he has achieved great heights through his online empire, he realizes that 80% of the $4.9 trillion Chinese retail market still happens offline.

Amazon has also made recent moves via acquisition or partnership to extend its footprint in the brick-and-mortar space. Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods has enabled it to have physical presence in high-density cities throughout the United States. Its partnership with Kohl’s allows Amazon purchases to be returned to one of Kohl’s stores in L.A. or Chicago free of charge.

What do Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos realize? Having some form of physical presence is necessary to start chipping away at that significant portion of retail pie that is still spent offline.

What customers want

Brands have a tremendous opportunity to leverage their strengths to compete. Look at the customer holistically. While they may want to purchase online, they also want an easy return experience. Or perhaps they want to drop into a brick-and-mortar store to touch and feel the merchandise before they purchase.

Traditional retailers already have some form of physical presence. Leverage it. Use all the tools at your disposal—from your online assets to your offline assets—in service of the total customer experience. With a technology like Sitecore Experience Commerce™ you can get a 360-degree view of customers from first contact through checkout and beyond.

Customers want to be viewed as more than a transaction. They want and expect brands to get to know them, to present relevant content and offers to them in context. Brands that leverage both their own and third-party data can deliver more value over time—resulting in not just transactions but lifetime customers.

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Wanda Cadigan is Vice President, Commerce, at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter @wandac