Change in mcommerce is accelerating, and to the ecommerce architects at Vendio, a company that helps retailers build an online presence, it is clear that brick and mortar retailers can no longer rely on Google alone to navigate the landscape of mobile apps, Google Shopping and the battle against showrooming. Furthermore, the bigger effect of these shifts is yet to come. Now that Google has a clearly designed revenue model, what does it do about the downstream traffic it’s given to others, and how much of that does it capture? Google now has the power to become a credible threat to the big guns of ecommerce.
In looking at recent comScore data, Vendio found that even though the absolute audience for Google Shopping isn’t as strong as other major online players, the purchasing power of that audience is actually larger than that of eBay or Amazon. This is directly related to the growth in mobile shopping and technology. The majority of Vendio’s clients report that more than 20 percent of their revenue has been generated by mcommerce, which attests to the proliferation of apps and mobile coupons.
“I think what you’re going to see with the independent retail group is a continued reliance on some amount of price matching, and on convenience being key in dealing with the showrooming issue,” says Mike Effle, Vendio CEO. “What you may see over time is that online shopping will become more agile. Think of the days when price sticker machines were first replaced by bar codes. You still had prices on the shelf that needed to be physically changed. Now, the price changes that you’re able to do offline are going to reflect those that can be done online.” The experts at Vendio find that the buying experience online is actually getting to be better than it is offline, because it makes finding and purchasing items easy.
Harry Hirschman, VP of marketing and business development at Vendio, pinpoints three main reasons why customers showroom. They do it largely to save money, but they also take into account the size and portability of an item. Additionally, some customers are simply looking to get a better feel for a product than what they have already been able to find out by reading reviews and descriptions online. “There are opportunities for small businesses to level the playing field here,” Hirschman says. “Those retailers can’t buy the real estate as big box stores, but they can get the same impactful real estate on a cell phone screen. If independents can provide information to a customer online, then they can become a part of that transaction.”
Rather than open the floodgates for showrooming, the mcommerce boom presents a unique opportunity for small businesses to use one of their greatest assets, their brand identities. Small businesses have a personality that customers are more inclined to trust, because they make customers feel good about buying from them. “Some of the large, nameless and faceless corporations out there have a more difficult time with that,” Effle points out.
In terms of branding, the most successful independent businesses are passionate about the products and relate to a niche market. These companies display that passion in ways that can build clientele without incurring direct marketing expenses, done by engaging an audience on a repeated basis through social media, imagery and telling the story of how the business got started. Sporting goods merchants, for example, often have Facebook pages with photos of the employees using products, and in turn, customers can post pictures of themselves using those products to tell a story. “Great retail is not just about trying to engage someone for a sale,” Effle expresses. “It’s about personality, specifically the owner’s personality. Having that come out is hard to do unless the owner is passionate about the products he or she sells, but it’s absolutely key.”
So how do busy retailers find the time to get personal with customers? How do they approach marketing in the mcommerce era? Effle finds that the most logical approach is to automate as many online processes as possible, because neglecting the brand and social audience inhibits a business’s credibility. The buzz on social media pages, he believes, determines one’s ability to gain new customers for free.
Many retailers are curious about how marketing will continue to work in the presence of eBay and Amazon. “Some small businesses have brands and personality, but feel as though they’re shouting in a forest with no one around to hear them,” Hirschman points out. What we do, and suggest doing, is automate the back end processes and loop them around to the front end, which engages customers and helps small businesses be found.” One of the keys is showing customers you appreciate and understand them. Vendio, as a matter of course, helps small businesses build that relationship with their customers, through emails to browsers and buyers and by helping retailers understand the online face of their clientele.
The beauty for independent retailers is that they have the opportunity to tune in to customers. Entrepreneurs can build a business around customers’ needs. Brick and mortar retailers are progressing, now doing that via social media in the same way they have via storefronts throughout history.