The extraordinary and revolutionary advent of eCommerce, tempered by the competitive intelligence world of retail sales and profits -- and growth of supporting technology -- has store-front retailers fighting back. Before this past holiday season, many big retailers rolled out the big guns to level the playing field, taking ideas from the online playbook to fight for share of growing Internet business. The main way retailers are fighting back against online retail competition is to use burgeoning technology and technology practitioners to support their own online and in-store functions.
As we predicted in our popular blog post, 7 Tips To Make Your Business Irresistible To Online Shoppers, retailers have turned to the technology sector -- to hire companies, consultants, purveyors, employees and services that are the leaders in online, mobile, social, and competitive procedures, for the following purposes:
1. To provide competitive intelligence software
2. To provide analysis of pricing intelligence data and advice to the retailers
3. To install and manage the major technology to create strong and effective online presence
4. To improve and refine inventory management
5. To speed up fulfillment and order delivery
6. To oversee competitive intelligence and assortment solutions
7. To filter data from social media networks
8. To analyze existing data for future competitive planning and promotion
9. To enhance the in-store and home experience
-- And more.
Here are some of the specific realms in which retailers are putting technology to use to improve their standing in online competition:
-- To speed up fulfillment and order delivery: Retailers are fighting back against competition, including Amazon, experimenting with same-day-shipping, next-day-shipping, free shipping, choice of shipping, and in-store pick up. The jury is still out on the efficiency, value, and success of the different delivery procedures and services, but retailers want to be in the midst of the game.
Worth Note: Wal Mart notes that customers spend about $60 in the store when they come for in-store pick up.
Worth Note: Staples is adding Amazon Lockers to its stores to encourage people to come to the premises.
-- To improve inventory management and fulfillment: With the threatening growth of Amazon fulfillment centers located close to major delivery areas, retailers are using their own stores as fulfillment centers and also opening big fulfillment centers of their own. To be efficient, the inventory management has to be accurate, economical, and the inventory in good condition, something retailers are working on refining.
Worth Note: With slow physical-store growth and demand vs. rapid online growth, retailers have stopped opening new stores.
-- To be more technology oriented: One major retailer updated its computer systems some time ago in anticipation of this trend. Others are doing it now.
-- Increased employment of tech savvy people: Retailers are working to master online sales processes and go online themselves, hiring savvy people to help do this. Retailers are hiring companies, consultants, and staff with extensive technological and social know-how and experience to guide the nascent interests of the retailers.
Worth Note: Best Buy assigned additional employees to staff their pick-up center as 40 percent of the store's orders are now picked up.
-- Enhance home experience, convenience: While some consumers will prefer the in-store experience, retailers continue to seek ways to make the in-home, or on-line-anywhere experience to be as pleasant and inviting as possible.
At the moment, technology is in the driver's seat of competitive moves regarding the internet, holding sway as the leading paradigm and concern for internet-related trends, procedures, and competitions, as retailers seek consultants, purveyors, and people to employ who have software engineering and website development experience.
Credit to Reuters: How U.S. retailers are building up their online muscle, by Phil Wahba and Dhanya Skariachan, Dec. 24, 2012.