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Everywhere Commerce: Toys R Us vs Ikea

There's a reason why certain retailers are thriving while others fall by the wayside.

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There's a reason why certain retailers are thriving while others fall by the wayside.

Opinions

Everywhere Commerce: Toys R Us vs Ikea

There's a reason why certain retailers are thriving while others fall by the wayside.

Share this article

Everywhere Commerce. I can’t claim to have coined the phrase, but it struck me as the perfect way to describe today’s retail environment.

We live in an era where consumers want to shop how they want, when they want and wherever they want. This shopping experience can encompass going to a store, visiting a website, using a mobile, an app or social media channels.

Given the plethora of shopping channels available, consumers are unlikely to restrict themselves to using just one when making a purchase. Instead, they will often use a multitude of them interchangeably to land on their final purchase decision.

Hence the advent of the often (over)used word: omnichannel. But if you start with the consumer – which must be where all retailers should start – it strikes me that ‘Everywhere Commerce’ is a much better descriptor than omnichannel. It reminds us that we shop anywhere at any time, and is representative of the changing customer needs that must be prioritised by retailers.

And that is where retailers are going wrong. Amazingly, it seems that many forget the most important person there is – the customer.

The past month has seen the demise of Toys R Us and Maplin, whilst a slew of other retailers, including Mothercare, Debenhams, Carpetright and Next have faced increasingly challenging times.

What amazes me is that the vast majority of commentary is all about the structural issues these retailers face. The talk is of retailers stuck with swathes of property, long leases and debt, consumers squeezed by inflation and low wage growth, and the rise of online shopping.  But few are explaining that consumers - from millennials through to silver surfers - have changed the way they shop.

Ultimately, it is changing consumer habits that are challenging the retailers.

But by acknowledging ‘Everywhere Commerce,’ retailers have a profound opportunity to capitalise on the changing retail landscape.  An important part of this acknowledgment involves establishing a laser focus on what customers are doing, and then taking positive action to directly align their offering with these needs.

Take a look at Ikea, a company that’s 75 years old but paving the way when it comes to adapting to everywhere commerce. The brand has just announced that store visitors can use virtual reality headsets to walk around their potential new kitchen.

This provides the utmost personalised service to today’s customers. And for those customers living in cities such as London, New York and Tokyo, Ikea are creating smaller shops so city dwellers without cars and the ability to travel to super stores have the option to shop using Ikea.

The retailer also plans to be able to deliver at a decent price, pretty much anywhere, by 2021 – a reflection of that fact that often, Everywhere Commerce means bringing it to the consumer directly.

When making such shifts in customer offerings, there will be huge challenges in terms of managing a property portfolio and the costs associated with it that are no longer entirely relevant. However, as Toys R Us and Maplin have shown us recently – doing nothing to adapt to the need for Everywhere Commerce is just not an option.

Any entrepreneur looking to launch a business today would be launching an Everywhere Commerce business. Its essence would be the brand, together with a database of products and customer details.

That database would be wrapped up in personalisation algorithms and via a series of feeds (APIs for those of you who are technically inclined), to support every single Everywhere Commerce touch point from stores to social media.

Customer interaction would be seamless with a highly personalised service, whilst a logistics and delivery platform would be the icing on the cake for a world class customer experience.  Oops, I just mentioned customer experience – that's another word that is not mentioned often enough –  a subject for another day.

Richard Anson is co-founder of Reevoo.

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Everywhere Commerce: Toys R Us vs Ikea

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