"Working in retail has never been harder. And I’m not talking about traditional bricks-and-mortar retail, I’m talking about retail in general. It doesn’t matter if we sell online, in a store or via a combination of the two, the change in landscape, which has opened up the market, has made it more competitive. The more competition we have in any market, the harder it is to operate profitably. Again, the first rule in economics is that increased supply results in reduced prices.
It’s the most basic economic fact that everyone seems to forget. In a world where choice is increasing exponentially, it presents two simple options for retailers: be the cheapest and quickest, or live deep inside the long tail.
Retail was once one of the most simple business models — find a geography, buy a product, sell at margin — while it’s now one of the most complex. What was once a mum-and-pop business possibility is quickly becoming a sophisticated, technology-driven, multi-channel mind warp.[Moi ici: Estão a imaginar o choradinho dos anos 90 do comércio tradicional por causa dos shoppings? Para breve teremos o choradinho shoppings que não souberem adaptar-se ao e-commerce]
It’s hardest for the retailers selling what everyone else sells. Selling well-known, widely-distributed products online is simply a race to the bottom, a price war that can only be won by the most efficient operator. It’s quickly turning into a game of logistics more than it is about customer engagement. [Moi ici: Imaginem isto a lidar com uma tribo aguerrida] The world of today is an infinite store, where everything is available at the best price possible to anyone, anywhere.
What retail forgot
Retail has always been about bringing the unique from worlds afar; that is, introducing to people items they couldn’t find or get in their corner of the world. From the spice market to the department store to the first iterations of the supermarket, the story of the department store is worth recalling. The traditional department store, which was only born during the nineteenth century, was about curating products from around the world and bringing them home, making available to people amazing items from before the days of travel, let alone global travel.
The discount death spiral
Retailers forgot about enlightenment, curation and inspiration and got caught up in a TV-industrial, volume-focused price spiral. Price became the core focus of everything they did. The evidence is in all the communication materials. They even set up what’s known as ‘retail’ communications campaigns, which are entirely focused on price and nothing more. The brand, or what I call ‘reason’, campaigns trailed into the background and were often removed from the corporate retail agenda entirely. They forgot that their job as retailers was to bring the world to their geography. Instead, retailers are a place where you buy cheap stuff and deals where you get two for the price of one. Many traditional retailers have put themselves into a retail price death spiral where all they’ve stood for were cheap prices, so what will they stand for when others sell goods more cheaply online?"
Trechos retirados de "The Great Fragmentation : why the future of business is small" de Steve Sammartino