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Sunday 26th October 2014 UK Fashions Go Global Online

While the overall retail situation in the United Kingdom has had it's ups and downs this year, as we've discussed in previous posts, the online retail sector seems to be largely immune to the fluctuations in the market. The United Kingdom is currently leading the European Union when it comes to online trade exports, and by a significant margin. One of the most promising trends of the online shopping world is the growth of the fashion industry's successful adoption of e-commerce and all that in entails, spurred partly by the resounding success of UK-based beauty and fashion house ASOS.
 
In fact, the online fashion industry is doing so well in the United Kingdom largely thanks to a dramatic increase in interest from customers all around the world. Compared to the first quarter of 2013, the number of global web searches in the first quarter for 2014 for UK fashion brands and companies was up 13%. It's not just global interest, however, as UK residents seem fairly happy with what is available at home, as there was only a 5% increase in UK consumers looking elsewhere in the world over the same time periods.
 
The numbers truly become interesting when they are broken down by nation of origin. Interest in UK fashion from Chinese consumers has risen by 50% compared to first quarter 2013, a result which should have UK retailers eager to cater to the rapidly expanding Chinese market. As the Chinese consumer begins to truly flex their global buying power, retailers will have to ensure their competitor tracking is up to scratch in order to stay competitive.
 
According to Helen Dickinson, the director general of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) who commissioned the research in conjunction with Google, “UK clothing and footwear retailers are already world-beaters. These new BRC-Google numbers show that they are continuing to improve and expand on their online and multichannel offers, increasing their appeal to international markets and boosting the economy with their exports.”

Another interesting tidbit that appeared out of the research was that smartphone searches for fashion all around the world are rising faster than those performed on tablet devices, which could have some interesting impacts as retailers scramble to perfect their m-commerce offerings, reinforcing the need for a robust omnichannel solution. Smartphone fashion searches in 2014 so far have increased by 26% compared to first quarter 2013, while tablet fashion searches have only increased by 17%.

Posted on October 26th 2014 at 08:06am by James
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Tuesday 21st October 2014 Can Rejection Pay Off for Retailers?

High-end retailers are famous for being intimidating and supercilious. Whether it's a cultural artifact or an actual reality, the perception exists that high-end stores tend to treat customers poorly, especially if they are not immediately wealthy. Conventional marketing wisdom would say that this is a terribly negative strategy, and that the better customer service a retailer provides, the happier the customer will be, and the more likely they are to purchase from you again. Surprisingly, a new study that will be published in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Consumer Research by Darren Dahl has found that when it comes to the highest of the high-end retailers, the opposite is true.
 
Yes, you read that correctly - as long as a brand is perceived to be a luxury high-end brand, customers actually respond more positively to being treated poorly by the sales staff. At least, it's 'positive' when it comes to the bottom line of the retailer's books.  According to the paper, "Rejection by a brand increases consumers' desire to affiliate with it, and they do so by increasing their willingness to purchase, pay for and wear or display items from the rejecting brand." This is incredibly counterintuitive, but it seems to only apply to high-end brands. If the brand or retailer is considered to be cheap or budget, then the effect of poor service is completely different.
 
Additionally, the effect doesn't seem to apply equally to everyone. Dahl was quoted as saying, “Our study shows you’ve got to be the right kind of snob in the right kind of store for the effect to work." In other words, the more you idealise a certain brand, the more likely you are to respond favourably to being rejected by it, which is completely counterintuitive to traditional marketing wisdom.  

In the no-holds-barred world of retail, where a tiny competitive advantage can be the difference between success and failure, it will be interesting to see how various retailers attempt to capitalise on the results of this study. Even more interesting will be possible applications in the world of e-commerce. When it's impossible to assess a customer's potential net worth and spending habits  simply by looking at them as they walk through the front door of a shop, we may find that the 'big data' on our shopping habits being compiled by various retailers is sold and consolidated to form a sort of digital buying power scale. But will customers allow it? Only time will tell.

Posted on October 21st 2014 at 08:22am by James
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Sunday 19th October 2014 UK Retail Sales on the Rebound?

It's no secret that the retail world has had a rocky few years. Ever since the now near-mythical global financial crash of 2008, consumers have been extremely wary about their spending, and retailers have been feeling the pinch. Even now, going on six years later, the average consumer is just beginning to regain their sense of confidence in their earning power, and the impact that their long slumber has had on the retail markets are still being calculated. However, the economy in the United Kingdom - in the retail sales sector, at least - seems to be slowly recovering itself.

After a strong holiday season at the end of 2013, when retailers experienced better than expected sales (partly due to the adoption of the 'Black Friday' shopping day pioneered in the United States), retailers found that January and February were still posting gains, but not the impressive numbers that they were hoping for. The economic outlook appeared to grow even more grim during March, when overall sales fell compared to February. It seemed like the tumbling sales figures would continue on into April, as economists who participated in a poll from news service Reuters indicated that they expected retail sales to fall nearly half a percentage point thanks to the Easter holidays, among other things.

In spite of this bleak outlook, however, the economy surprised the experts by not dropping retail sales at all, although the posted gain was so slight as to be almost non-existent, just 0.1% on the month. That leaves UK retailers with a growth of 4.2% on the year, according the Office for National Statistics. While this might seem relatively decent growth for a period following a severe economic downturn, economists had initially predicted growth for the year to reach 7% by this point in the year. Interestingly, all of this was happening at the same time as retail prices fell during the month of March.

While the forecast for the year might have been a hopelessly optimistic in terms of hard numbers, but economists are still predicting a year of robust economic growth for the UK economy, largely due to the fact that the housing market is stabilizing and strengthening, which tends to be one of the main drivers of consumer confidence - and by extension, of consumer spending habits.

Posted on October 19th 2014 at 08:20am by Ade
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Monday 13th October 2014 When Online Goes Offline

The e-commerce revolution has sparked a number of major changes in the way customers interact with businesses. Massive changes in the way they browse, in the way they shop, and in the way they expect their entire transaction experience to go. One of the unintended side effects of these changes has been the shuttering of brick and mortar stores in favour of investing more resources in the digital side of the sales and fulfillment process. As we discussed in a recent post, brick and mortar stores are closing left and right as pressures on margins, overhead and bottom lines become even greater than they have been in the past. Recently, as in the aftermath of most sets of chaotic circumstances, a new pattern has begun to emerge. Instead of offline businesses moving online, a reverse trend has finally begun to establish itself, as traditionally online only companies begin to see advantages of having physical locations.

Arguably, Apple began to pave the way for this when they first took their successful online store offline, and opened the very first Apple Store location in the brick and mortar world. It was a runaway hit, and proved that there was possibility for online stores to make successful forays into the material world. Admittedly, Apple has some of the most fanatical customers of any brand in the world, and those customers tend to have relatively high incomes (or at least the willingness to spend their disposable income at said Apple Store), however the mold was broken and the floodgates may now open. Amazon is apparently gearing up for a pilot test of an offline brand to be known as 'Pantry', in an effort to compete with so-called 'big-box' stores like Walmart and Costco in the United States, and if they can also make it work, then the model has definitely been proven.

North America isn't the only region where online giants are eagerly eyeing the offline sector, however. In China, the popular competitor to Amazon.com known as Alibaba, which has been making headlines all around the world with rumours of a Western IPO and a renewed North American sales focus, is also seriously expanding its ability to conquer offline markets. One of the largest Chinese department store companies, Intime Retail, has recently accepted an investment from Alibaba of over £415 million, giving them a significant advantage over their rivals. As often as Alibaba and Amazon are spoken of as direct rivals, it's interesting to see how much more quickly Alibaba appears to move on its projects - Intime had already inked a deal with Alibaba to use their mobile payment affiliate system, Alipay Wallet, something that Amazon has only spoken of deploying as of yet. It will be interesting to see in the coming years how the two go head to head, as a clash of the e-commerce titans seems more and more inevitable.
 
To learn more about business intelligence and competitor monitoring, whether you're Amazon-sized or just starting out your online business, visit us for a free demo of how we can help you stay ahead of your competition.

Posted on October 13th 2014 at 04:55pm by James
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Saturday 11th October 2014 Who are the Biggest Retail Brands in 2014?

Perhaps the most fundamental aspect to solid business practices is accurate and up to date access to data. This is nothing new to the business world - it is said that we live in the information age, but of course, there really has never been any other age. Information has always been power. When it comes to examining today's fast-paced retail world, nothing has really changed, except how quickly we can gain access to the most relevant data. Big data, as it's known, has allowed business to quickly and accurately analyze customer trends and behaviours in order to truly maximise sales potentials and ensure that no money is being left on the table, whether it's in a brick and mortar store or on the web.
 
Even as big data has allowed individual businesses to zoom in on what their customers are doing and suggest ways to improve business practices and marketing strategies, data collection is also becoming more readily available at a more macroscopic level, allowing businesses to compare their own values to each other, as the speed and accuracy of competitor tracking reaches new heights. With that in mind, the world-renowned retail industry analysis firm Interbrand has released its "2014 Best Retail Brands Report", detailing the relative brand values of some of the largest retailers in the world, broken down by region (North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America).
 
It's unlikely to be a surprise to anyone in the retail world that Walmart is the most valuable brand in the world, holding a massive lead over the next most valuable brand, Target, despite Walmart's brand value decreasing by 6% compared to last year. Despite some consumer confidence scares thanks to a massive data theft during the holiday season, Target's value is up by 8%, placing its value at just over $27 billion - still a ridiculously far cry from Walmart's nearly untouchable $131 billion USD brand valuation.

Interestingly, even as the leading brands, known for their brick and mortar prowess post single digit losses or gains, in the North American sector alone, the two highest ranked rising stars are both e-commerce companies: Amazon and eBay, which posted brand value gains of 27% and 20%, respectively. The true shocker in the bunch is Macy's, which has posted an astonishing 383% brand valuation increase, well ahead of the next best grower, Whole Foods, which posted an equally impressive 173% valuation increase. Companies looking to maintain a competitive advantage can use these statistics as a relative metric of which business strategies are successful, offering a relatively risk free way to maximise potential profits.

Posted on October 11th 2014 at 04:50pm by Ade
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Tuesday 07th October 2014 Will "Click and Collect" be the New Hero of E-Commerce?

Fulfilment has always been the last hurdle of the e-commerce world. Shipping products to individual residences can be extremely expensive, and naturally that cost gets passed on to the consumer, which is one of the highest causes of shopping cart abandonment in online retail. Even worse, delivery times rarely seem to coincide with the customer's actual availability, creating a general hassle that pushes many people away from the online shopping world.

Several ideas have been floated and tested to solve this problem, but the most promising possibility so far seems to be the concept of centralized distribution centres. Essentially, companies ship purchased products to centralized locations scattered throughout major metropolitan areas which act as pick up points for customers to visit whenever is convenient for them.

At first glance, of course, this sounds quite a lot like the 'big box' retail store model that has been the latest rage in brick and mortar retail, but there are a few key differences. First of all, overhead is extremely low for the distribution centre, as they don't need to keep a large area open for customer usage. Second of all, for the customers, there's no need to hunt around through a store area, as their package is already catalogued and marked, ready for pickup. No hassles about stock, or price comparisons, or any of the hassles that make retail shopping in a big box store frustrating.

In fact, Planet Retail, an industry analysis firm, recently released a report entitled "UK Click & Collect: retail fad or future of the high street?" forecasts that the number of shoppers in the UK who use these types of distribution centres to complete online purchases will more than double from the current 35% to 76% by the year 2017 - quite a strong recommendation. Currently, the United Kingdom leads the world in the use of these types of services, with only 13% of customers in the United States using similar services, and less than 5% in Germany.

To add even more weight to the phenomenon, online retail giant Amazon is currently experimenting with similar delivery centre options, although they're going to have their work cut out for them, as most of the 66% of UK retailers who currently offer click and collect services already have brick and mortar store locations that can be doubled up for use as distribution centres. However, considering Amazon has a staggering amount of warehouse space already carefully centrally located in major metropolitan areas - not to mention nearly unlimited capital - the competitive advantage may swing back in their direction quite rapidly.
 
To keep a close eye on your own business advantages, check out the competitor tracking services offered here at Competitor Monitor.

Posted on October 07th 2014 at 11:30am by James
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Saturday 04th October 2014 UK m-Commerce Booming in 2014

Mobile commerce, or m-commerce as it is commonly known in the industry, is changing the shape of the online retail market. In order to maintain a competitive advantage, the retailers who adapt the most quickly to coming trends typically have the most to gain - but gambling on the wrong trends, or trends
that fail to emerge into the mainstream, can have disastrous consequences. There has been some speculation in the past that the time of m-commerce hasn't yet come, or that it's never going to materialize into a properly viable channel, but recent reports seem to be finally quieting the naysayers and putting the matter to rest once and for all.

A recent study commissioned by online coupon giant RetailMeNot indicates that at least in the United Kingdom, mobile shopping is here to stay. The study forecasts that over the course of 2014, customers in the United Kingdom will spend nearly £8 billion online using their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). This is quite high even by the standards of the rest of Europe, which as a whole is forecasted to spend nearly £20 billion in 2014.

Interestingly, Europe's overall m-commerce spending is growing at a slightly slower rate than that of the United Kingdom, as in 2013 the m-commerce spend was just shy of £11 billion, making for an increase of nearly double. In the United Kingdom in 2013, the m-commerce spending stats showed sales of £3 billion pounds less, roughly £5 billion.

This is in large part driven by the fact that smartphone adoption is much higher in the United Kingdom than in the rest of Europe, making it a perfect testing ground for companies looking to experiment with m-commerce solutions among a large population who are comfortable making such purchases. 28% of all smartphone users in the United Kingdom made an online purchase with their mobile device in 2013, the highest in all of Europe, just above Germany who placed second with 27%, and well in advance of third placed Sweden, who measured in at 21%.

Naturally, m-commerce adoption is an uphill battle as retailers experiment with solutions that respond to the evolving needs and desires of consumers who are still themselves discovering just how it is they want to use their mobile devices. Any retailer who hopes to maintain a competitive advantage had better pay close attention to evolutions in the market space, because whoever picks up on the best new trends will be far ahead of the pack.

Posted on October 04th 2014 at 09:31am by James
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Tuesday 30th September 2014 The Crucial New E-Commerce Tactic

It's an almost unavoidable fact that the e-commerce world moves at the speed of light - thanks to fiberoptic global communications, this is literally true. But even figuratively, the e-commerce world is a constantly shifting landscape of innovation as retailers large and small move to counter the advantages gained by others, while increasing their own competitive ability and marketing position. Competitor tracking is one of the most essential elements of the online retail world, and allows even the smallest businesses to stay abreast of the latest retail tactics.

The latest concept that's taking the retail world by storm is presented as a solution to the competition between online and offline markets: omnichannel retailing. Channels, as most retailers are aware, is simply another way of describing ways of interacting with customers, whether it be via email, websites, mobile browsing, or brick and mortar store foot traffic. In a world that was struggling to adapt to the sudden rise of e-commerce, channels were becoming increasingly fragmented, with the left hand not knowing what the right was doing, so to speak, more often than not, as websites and stores offered different deals, different prices, and in some cases even different products. Needless to say, this was a growing hassle for both retailers and customers alike.

Omnichannel retail solves all those discrepancies by stressing the essential nature of a consistent experience for customers, no matter how they choose to interact with a business. Unlike many buzzwords, this one appears to have gained real traction in the business community, as evidenced by the recent "First Annual Symposium on Omni Retailing", held in New York City at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

While the focus of the symposium was on fashion retail and how it can be enhanced by using omnichannel retail strategies, it makes perfect sense that fashion retailers would be at the forefront of a distributed but consistent retail experience, as many shoppers who browse fashion online are still unwilling to purchase without actually trying the final product. Lending some serious weight to the event was the speaker list, which included representatives from Microsoft, Birchbox, and The Boston Consulting Group, as well as a keynote address by Peter Nordstrom, from the retailer of the same name, a real coup for the event organizers as he rarely speaks at any sort of event.

In a world dominated by multiple channels, the true competitive advantage will be held by those who can deliver consistently excellent experiences to customers, no matter how they choose to interact. Getting in on the ground floor can ensure your business stays ahead of the curve, instead of behind the eight ball.

Posted on September 30th 2014 at 09:00am by James
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Saturday 27th September 2014 China Leading the World in Online Retail Adoption

Much comment has been made about the recently booming Chinese online retail market, which is forecasted to double in size each year for all the years that projections have currently been made. The potential of the market is truly incredible, and it shows every sign of meeting or exceeding the forecasts that treat it so glowingly. It should come as no surprise, then, that Chinese consumers are embracing the e-commerce experience with such open arms, as they're an integral part of the engine that's driving the retail boom.

According to a recent report that was released by the Shanghai branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Chinese consumer turns to online shopping at a much higher rate than the average global consumer does. One in seven people buy something online every single day, and 60% of the population buys something online at least once a week.

While this is quite impressive in and of itself, there are some other habits of the Chinese consumer that differ somewhat from the Western perspective we've come to have on e-commerce. For instance, their near-ubiquitous adoption of mobile devices is on par with the West, but they use their devices for shopping at a far greater rate than the rest of the world, with nearly 25% of all those polled shopping using their mobile device to shop at least once a week, more than double the global average which clocked in just shy of 9%.

The typical Chinese consumer also seems far more likely to use a social network or company-hosted review site to leave feedback and reviews of their purchases than the global average, whether positive or negative, which creates a much more complete perspective for other potential customers on which to base their purchasing decisions. More than 90% of the polled Chinese customers in the PwC study indicated that they leave feedback online about their purchases, compared to the global average of just 55%.

Even as omnichannel shopping is growing as a common phrase in boardrooms and planning offices in Europe and North America, so too does is it become crucial in China, as the traditional brick and mortar store is forced to adapt to the incredible pace of the online markets. Considering the incredible success of m-commerce in China, it will be very interesting to see how offline retailers deal with the problems of showrooming and omnichannel solutions, and may provide a testing ground for successful strategies to be implemented elsewhere around the world.

Posted on September 27th 2014 at 08:18am by Ade
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Sunday 21st September 2014 Walmart Launches Price Comparison Tool

In the heated battle currently underway between brick and mortar and online-only retailers, it's not hard to guess which way the tide is going: the ease and convenience of online shopping simply overpowers the traditional model of actually having to visit a physical store. Well, that's true in certain areas, at least. Despite recent expansions into the traditionally elusive markets of fashion and apparel, some sectors seem to struggle with offering online solutions that compete effectively with their offline counterparts. One of the most elusive of these sectors is the grocery and produce market, for relatively obvious reasons.
 
Walmart, the series of mega-stores first launched in the United States, has always been aggressively conscious about its pricing systems, even to the point of driving smaller local retailers out of business simply by underbidding them, on everything from household items to groceries. Over the past several years, unsurprisingly, they have been losing sales to the online world as many people grow to accept that the convenience of online shopping trumps whatever discount Walmart might be able to offer - although increasingly, online price comparison tools have been able to find better deals for customers than they can keep up with.
 
As a result, Walmart has taken the unusual step of launching its own price comparison tool, called the "Savings Catcher". It operates something like an expanded version of a customer loyalty program, and in that sense differs greatly from most price comparison solutions. Instead of having customers search out each item they want to buy and find the lowest price, customers who have ALREADY shopped at Walmart enter their receipt number into the website's system, and it will find the lowest prices and credit the difference between lowest prices and what the customer has already payed onto a Walmart gift card.

From an economic perspective, it's an intelligent solution. Walmart is now sitting on your money in advance, which it can do what it wants with while the customer is awaiting their next purchase. However, it fails in comparison to the reliability and flexibility of more traditionally-designed price comparison tools in that it works best on volume purchases - like groceries. Most customers don't buy a huge number of household items all at once, so it's easy to use a more common price comparison tool online to do the job properly. For groceries, however, it would take hours to search out the best prices for a week's worth of family shopping. In this case, and this case alone, Walmart is likely to find success with this tool.

Posted on September 21st 2014 at 06:12am by James
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Friday 19th September 2014 Reaching Emerging E-commerce Markets

The e-commerce world has always been a rapidly changing one. As little as 10 years ago, it was still a relatively new thing to many people in the Western world, and not necessarily entirely trusted by many who were yet to adapt to the technology. But as the ease of use and availability of items increased, so too did the general public's desire to embrace the new phenomenon, and naturally retailers followed suit. Fortunately, the entire backbone of internet access was well-established in the West by this point, and when coupled with the credit card systems that had been in use for decades, the stage was set for e-commerce to take the retail world by storm. But what about the rest of the world?
 
As the idea of globalized e-commerce begins to become a viable reality, any number of hiccups are being encountered by retailers hoping to reach emerging markets. Global logistics and supply chain issues have been dramatically improved over the last decade, but they're still not guaranteed, and the same type of issue often applies to payment processors. In many nations around the world with comparatively wealthy populations such as Russia, credit cards are still not widely embraced (though with the sheer amount of credit card fraud going on in the world, it's not too difficult to understand why).
 
This presents a fairly serious problem to retailers, however. Some have worked out clever ways around this problem, including the Russian competitor to Amazon's localized shipping depots where customers can pick up items and pay cash, or in some African nations, cash-on-delivery systems have been implemented. Both of these put all the risk in the hands of the retailer, however, and while that may reassure the customers somewhat, it doesn't always encourage foreign investment in online merchants.

In many parts of the world, however, an interesting march of technology has taken place. Throughout Africa and many parts of Asia, landlines and hardwired access has been leapfrogged by mobile phone technology. Enterprising payment processors, recognizing the possibilities of leveraging the already established mobile phone payment systems, have begun to partner with retailers to build an entirely different model of e-commerce that takes advantage of the ubiquity of mobile phones. As this trend expands and more and more customers grow comfortable with the safety and security of these methods, expect to see a sudden and rapid growth in the e-commerce markets of every nation around the globe.

Posted on September 19th 2014 at 12:37pm by James
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Tuesday 16th September 2014 Should Online Shopping Reviews Work Both Ways?

One of the most celebrated trends recent in online retail websites has been the functionality that allows customers to post reviews of the products being sold, as well as reviews of the retailer itself. All sorts of hassles and unexpected problems have been avoided just by allowing customers to post comment and interact with each other, and by allowing the retailer's customer service team into the conversation, customer confidence and satisfaction has skyrocketed. However, auction sites like the ubiquitous eBay that started so much of the online shopping revolution, coupled with the growing popularity of market-bazaar sites like Alibaba that simply act as platforms to connect merchants and customers, the question must be asked: should retailers be able to start reviewing customers?
 
At first, it may seem like a ludicrous idea - nearly impossible to keep track of and ensure there is no potential for abuse. But these same issues were raised during the introduction of the buyer's ability to rate sellers, and of the entire online customer review concept, and now those elements are staples of almost all e-commerce sites. eBay in particular has a problem with this, given the nature of the system. If a user wins an auction and then simply doesn't pay, the seller has absolutely no recourse when it comes to alerting other sellers to this problem customer. Curiously enough, sellers are able to leave positive feedback about transactions that went smoothly, but don't have the option to mention anything negative if the customer fails to send money or causes some other type of problem.

There is much to be said for the idea of protecting customers from the wrath of an angry merchant. At first glance, the power dynamic appears to automatically favour the merchant. After all, they have a business to run and seem to gain trust simply by virtue of the fact that they are merchants - but as the line between sellers and "trustworthy brands" continues to blur thanks to the digital empowerment of a single individual to run a fairly large business online, and as fraud and abuse seem like daily facts of life in the digital world, it only seems fair that protections for merchants evolve at the same time as protections for customers. This is especially true in the emerging online markets that often have higher instances of fraud and other dubious transactions, and that element is likely going to become more and more apparent as these markets mature.

Posted on September 16th 2014 at 10:46am by Ade
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Saturday 13th September 2014 Brick and Mortar Stores Closing Left and Right

When talking about online retail, the news is generally positive. After all, most markets around the world are posting incredible growth numbers that vastly outpace the statistics in comparable offline sectors, and in business news (unlike most news), the tendency is towards positive reports that keep everyone upbeat about the stability of the economy. It's impossible to ignore the fact that there is a bit of a dark side to all this growth - many brands are closing a huge number of brick and mortar stores, which throws a number of other connected markets (real estate, for example) for quite a loop.
 
The trend in brick and mortar closings isn't exactly new. Back at the beginning of the e-commerce era, when people still used the phrase 'dot coms', highly successful book shop Barnes & Noble was already beginning to feel the pressure from Amazon's initial forays into the book market. Eventually, Barnes & Noble got its act together and invested in a serious online presence, but not before they had closed an astonishing number of stores in a remarkably short time, including their New York City-based flagship location. The element that makes this continued phenomenon strange is now the types of stores that are closing.
 
24/7 Wall St. reports that of the brands closing the most stores in the United States, 3 of the 5 are clothing retailers, which perfectly highlights the growing success of fashion retailers who have moved towards online shopping in recent years. The retailer closing the second-highest number of stores is the aforementioned and beleaguered Barnes & Noble, and the other is Office Depot, although this last is largely due to a merger than any sudden shifts in online sales success.

Interestingly enough, across the Atlantic in the United Kingdom, it appears that this American trend isn't holding true. In 2012, nearly 1800 shops closed on high streets throughout the UK, which is a staggering 20 closings per day. Last year's numbers, however, had shrunk so dramatically as to be considered 'normal', down 80% to only 371 closings for the whole year. However, this is still the third year straight that has posted decreases in the number of brick and mortar stores overall, which indicates that even though the initial shock of the online retail switch may have passed, it's not likely reverse itself unless retailers can come up with better reasons for customers to visit brick and mortar locations.

Posted on September 13th 2014 at 12:14pm by Ade
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Wednesday 10th September 2014 M-Commerce Dominates Traditional Online Sales in Some Markets

Mobile commerce, or 'm-commerce', has long been a sort of holy grail for e-commerce retailers - tantalizing, but nearly impossible to find successfully. A number of different approaches have been tested to solve the problem, but there haven't been many runaway successes as of yet. However, as the market begins to mature, we are finally reaching a point where there is actually enough data to begin a data-driven analysis of what is working and what isn't, over larger product areas than a single company can provide.
 
A recently released Experian Marketing Services analysis report took a look at the online purchasing trends among Americans in 2013, but subdivided this fairly typical question by the specific type of device those customers used to make their purchase, and the results were fairly interesting. Perhaps unsurprisingly, over 50% of Americans bought books, clothing, or electronics online last year - although on reflection, perhaps that is a bit surprising after all, simply for being somewhat lower than one might expect in such a hyper-connected era.
 
Among the most interesting tidbits was the fact that nearly the same number of users (roughly half of those polled) purchased clothing and fashion accessories on a tablet as those who did their shopping computers, compared to just over a quarter of those who owned smartphones. This is likely a testament to the much larger screen sizes afforded by tables, but the intuitive possibilities of gesture and swipe controls for creating interactive catalogs that just feel clunky on a computer can't be ignored. Tablets haven't quite caught up to desktop computers when it comes to purchasing electronics, with only 41% of tablet owners making such purchases via their tablets. Naturally, books are one of the areas that tablets completely dominate the market, thanks to devices such as the Kindle Fire and the iPad. The same is true of music, games and other apps that have long been the province of the mobile market.

The most interesting thing about tablets and their emerging popularity is the way they start to blur the lines between mobile devices and traditional computers. As tablets grow more and more powerful, the lines will blur even further - except in one major respect. Many customers bring their smartphones with them everywhere, and frequently use them to find store locations and use price comparison tools in store, which is a difficult thing to do easily with a tablet, as they tend not to fit comfortably into pockets. Fortunately, brick and mortar retailers aren't likely to ever have to worry about tablet showrooming - but who knows what the future may bring?

Posted on September 10th 2014 at 07:59am by James
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Monday 08th September 2014 2014 Online Retail Estimates for the UK

The dramatically rising online retail numbers from countries all around the world are setting the online world afire lately.  From Brazil to China and everywhere in between, developing economies are driving massive growth numbers that have investors salivating and business owners eager to expand. Perhaps surprisingly to some, back here on the home front, e-commerce markets are also still growing quite well. The percentage increases aren't quite as staggering as those posted abroad, but the e-commerce market is also quite a bit more mature, which inevitably leads to slightly lower gains year to year.
 
RetailMeNot, one of the largest providers of digital coupons, commissioned a study from industry analysis firm the Centre for Retail Research about the emerging trends for 2014 and 2015, and the numbers were very respectable. Across the European Union, e-commerce sales growth is vastly outperforming brick and mortar sales growth, racing ahead at a rate nearly 12 times that of their physical counterparts. In the UK, that differential isn't quite as high, with online sales growth for 2014 projected at 15.8%, compared to a paltry 2.4% for offline sales. Customers are forecast to spend over £1,000 each in online sales this year, bringing the size of the UK online retail market to over £45 billion.
 
The truly encouraging thing for retailers, however, can be found in the study's forecasts for 2015. Not because there is a sudden unexpected upswing in the UK sales growth percentage, but rather because it is forecast to hold relatively steady, even increasing by a tiny fraction to 16%. This is a testament to the maturity of the market, and the continued confidence that customers are displaying in transitioning towards online shopping.

These numbers may not seem like much when compared to the massive growth figures put out by huge markets like China and India, which are experiencing nearly unprecedented expansions often as high as 50% year to year, but when compared to the current economic juggernaut that is the United States of America, it all comes into perspective - US e-commerce market is only expected to grow by 13% in 2015. While all eyes are on the BRIC for rapid expansion, it remains to be seen whether or not the shakiness of such dramatic expansion will be able to withstand the rigors of a globalized market. It's almost inevitable that there will be some major issues to be tackled by online retailers who pin all their hopes on these markets, issues that have already been dealt with in more mature markets.

Posted on September 08th 2014 at 07:55am by Ade
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Labels: , e-commerce, eu, growth, markets, uk
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