Over the past few years we have seen a growing trend where shoppers are steadily moving away from retail stores and outlets and towards online shopping. This trend seems set to continue and as a result, we see retail stores cutting prices, offering discounts and bumping up their sales offerings.
Traditional holiday sales times are no longer the nirvana of retail outlets and competition for shopping dollars is increasing in leaps and bounds. Maybe this trend will hit a ceiling and the numbers of online shoppers will reach a plateau, but then again, maybe not.
So how can retail operators accommodate this change in shopping behaviour or is there nothing to be done – and over the next few years we will witness many smaller stores closing their doors?
The loss of physical stores has many ramifications, not the least of which is the loss of employee jobs, but there is also the loss of business to shopfitters, interior designers and interior project specialists who are essential to setting up physical retail outlets.
So what is the solution to online shopping for retailers?
One solution is to copy online retailers and jump into the online market. Of course this will involve a change in marketing, warehousing and lines of distribution, but the addition of an online channel to a retailer’s physical presence may just be the break that is needed.
It goes without saying that online marketing and sales can be very lucrative, just think of Amazon and EBay, and as we are all well aware, many smaller stores are already established in the internet space. Many in fact, do not have physical stores at all and only sell their products online.
So one solution is to beat them at their own game and set up an online store for your products. Another possible option which has huge possibilities are Hub Destination Centres (HDCs).
Hub Destination Centres
The best way to explain these centres is as a meeting place where people can meet, mingle and share their experiences about the brand. This concept is in direct contrast to the current shopping centres where you go to shop, grab a cup of coffee and leave. The shopping centres of the future may be more about the destination and the experience, rather than the shopping.
As an example, think of the Apple stores, where people congregate to share their experiences of the brand. We may even find that these HDCs help to influence people in their shopping behaviour, where they can see and touch the latest designs and then go home and order online.
The whole point of HDCs is engagement and it is believed that these futuristic shopping centres will provide food, entertainment and special product linked events, all of which will lead to greater product awareness and engagement.
Clearly these HDCs will help to translocate many store employees, as well as requiring interior project specialists – as the design and retail fitouts of these new centres will need to be highly innovative.
It will be interesting to observe the changing trends in physical and online sales over the next few years and whether these customer-centric HDCs will in fact, be the future of shopping.