Small Retailers Poised For Growth Despite Retail Squeeze, Says E-commerce Expert

Published: Thu 14 Mar 2024 09:41 AM
Contrary to predictions that the days of small retailers are numbered, emerging new technology and shopper values suggests small retailers are well-positioned to thrive in the coming years—unlike the retail middle which will do it tough.
Mark Presnell, Managing Director of Convergence, an Auckland-based e-commerce integration firm says the recent challenges faced by medium-sized retailers like Godfreys and Michael Hill highlight the pressure on the retail middle ground.
"They often lack the scale of mega-stores and the customer focus of smaller businesses, leaving them vulnerable to changing consumer behaviour and rising overheads."
The demise of the impersonal middle ground, Presnell says, stems from a failure to adapt to the online landscape. Many brick-and-mortar stores prioritise their physical presence at the expense of their online operations, resulting in outdated product listings, inaccurate pricing, stock discrepancies, and poor customer communication.
"This inconsistency breeds frustration for shoppers who want a seamless experience, ultimately driving them back to the convenience and reliability of larger online platforms, or the more tailored service of smaller retailers.
"Big-box stores can afford to dedicate significant resources to online operations, which medium businesses often struggle to match. Smaller businesses can now expand beyond, for example Invercargill and go national if not global—they have lower overheads and offer a more intimate experience.”
Presnell says medium retailers will continue to bear the brunt of online shopping.
His advice for retailers in New Zealand is to embrace online and treat it like the future, without compromising on relationship driven personal customer service.Embrace Technology: While transitioning to a quality online presence requires time and investment, neglecting it altogether is a recipe for failure. Presnell says those retailers who are technically challenged should turn to Government programmes and consultants who can help bridge the skills gap and equip retailers with the tools they need to succeed online.Omnichannel Integration: Treating online and in-store operations as separate entities creates unnecessary workload and inconsistency. Integrating these channels can streamline operations and offer convenient options like click-and-collect, further enhancing the customer experience.Community and Collaboration: Networking with other online retailers provides valuable support and learning opportunities. Sharing best practices and collaborating on solutions can empower even the smallest businesses to compete effectively.
"The future of retail belongs to those who adapt and innovate," Presnell says.
"By embracing technology, prioritising customer service, and building strong online presences, small retailers can not only survive but flourish in the years to come."
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