Retailers Are Facing Serious Troubles in the UK
With recent advances in information and communication technology, mobile and e-commerce platforms have transformed the way fashion industries operate. Companies no longer can afford physical stores to conduct sales and are moving their operations to online platforms instead. Having an e-commerce allows companies to omit heavy cost burden such as rent; the common culprit in causing downfalls of companies.
In fact, we have seen how rent and rising overheads are the main reasons why retail companies on the high streets are facing serious troubles. According to a research conducted by the accountancy firm PwC, a total of 1,123 stores closed from Britain's top 500 high streets in the first 6 months of 2018 (Palumbo & Thomas, 2018) with fashion and electrical stores suffering the most, as customers were shopping online instead.
Other companies that chose to preserve their brick-and-mortar stores resorted to other solutions instead. To name a few, Mothercare, New Look, Jamie's Italian and Gourmet Burger King have made use of company voluntary arrangements (CVAs) to cut costs, close numerous outlets and lay off employees (The Guardian, 2018). A CVA is a form of insolvency that allows businesses to renegotiate contracts with their creditors – particularly landlords being asked to accept lower rent payments for the spaces. The British Retail Consortium reported that there were 85,000 retail jobs lost in 2018, as consumers have reined in their spending, switched to buying online and prioritising leisure and holidays instead.
Consumers are Moving to Online Shopping
That said, the online revolution has fuelled consumer-driven (B2C) and business transactions (B2B), sparking the interests of major brands, conglomerates and even startups. With platforms such as Shopify, WooCommerce and Squarespace making online stores so easy and readily available, even many individuals have chosen to start their businesses online.
For consumers, the shopping experience has been redefined entirely. Shoppers can easily access and purchase a variety of products under one virtual roof, without leaving their homes. Accompanied with personalized delivery services, the draw to shop online is amplified. To thrive in such a dynamic industry, here are three key tips on how you can successfully leverage e-commerce.
1. Curate an enjoyable mobile shopping customer experience.
Why mobile shopping? Also known as "Mcommerce", it accounted for over £35.4 billion of sales in 2017 in the UK, which accounted for 43% of e-commerce sales (Ecommerce News, 2018).
When designing a mobile shopping experience, focus on functionalities to keep your customers interested, engaged and wanting more. Features such as a simple user interface, a reliable feedback system, linkages to social media platforms and customisation options are important in drawing and maintaining users. With millennials switching between media platforms an average of 27 times hourly, it is essential that your mobile shopping experience provides seamless service to stay competitive and relevant amidst other competitors.
Consumers now spend at least five hours a day on their smartphones, and a recent AdWeek survey found 88% growth year over year in time spent watching videos on a smartphone (McLeod, 2018). Thus, including videos for your products and website could encourage them to explore your store a little longer.
2. Engage (a few) reliable delivery service providers.
"A courier is the lifeline of your business and will fundamentally make or break your client relations." (Lester, n.d.)
In order to maintain positive customer experience and relations, it is crucial to ensure successful deliveries are made. By successful, I mean deliveries that are performed on time with products being damage-free. Retailers are strongly advised to offer an array of delivery options to its customers, based on their budget and time constraints by working with both startups and couriers.
Additionally, retailers can engage delivery service providers that utilise transportation management software. These software are able to provide consumer alerts for each step of the delivery process and dashboards to identify poor performing drivers. Simply request email notification on delivery so you can rest assured your parcels are delivered without having to monitor your courier.
Here are some points for comparison (Lester, n.d.):
3. Reconsider your inventory strategy – is it working for you?
Many retailers operate a traditional model, purchasing quantities in bulk and passing cost-savings onto the consumers. Although this business model has been considerably successful for high-volume products, it requires high working capital investments and significant inventory risk. Furthermore, 52% of online shoppers will abandon all items in their carts upon learning that just one item they are attempting to purchase is not in stock (Saddle Creek Logistics Services, n.d.). Taking your products, consumers and logistics into consideration, evaluate which type of inventory system may be the best option for your business.
A UK fashion e-commerce platform, Lyst, adopted a way for its brands and retailers to display items for its shoppers to consume without incurring any inventory costs. Through technology platforms, they were able to synchronise inventory with retailers in real-time.
Ecommerce News. (2018). Mcommerce in UK, Germany and France: €85 billion in 2018. [online] Available at: https://ecommercenews.eu/mcommerce-uk-germany-france-e85-billion-2018/ [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].
Lester, K. (n.d.). 8 Considerations for Choosing the Right Courier for your Business. [online] The Florist. Available at: https://theflorist.co.uk/business-briefing-florist-magazine/1402-crucial-considerations-for-choosing-the-right-courier-for-your-business [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].
McLeod, B. (2018). 61 Mobile Marketing Statistics for 2019 and Beyond. [online] Blue Corona. Available at: https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/mobile-marketing-statistics [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].
Palumbo, D. and Thomas, D. (2018). Retailers 'closing 14 shops a day'. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46142025 [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].
Saddle Creek Logistics Services. (n.d.). 3 Things to Look For in Your Fulfillment Inventory Management System - Saddle Creek Logistics Services. [online] Available at: https://www.sclogistics.com/resource-center/blog-posts/3-things-look-fulfillment-inventory-management-system/ [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].
The Guardian. (2018). No end in sight to UK high street retailers' troubles. [online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/dec/28/no-end-in-sight-to-uk-high-street-retailers-troubles [Accessed 9 Mar. 2019].