RadioShack’s recent bankruptcy and store closure announcement has pundits speculating which brand names will be next. Meanwhile, Amazon is considering the possibility of swimming completely upstream and opening marquis brick and mortar stores, even snapping up some of the closing RadioShacks.
The only certainty in the near future, as the Economist points out, is that this speculation “will cause sleepless nights for the rest of the retail sector.”
Yet, Radioshack’s demise shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. The harbinger of their decline, as Liyan Chen of Forbes notes, that the 94 year old company’s sales had been “shrinking for years.” And while RadioShack the most recent giant to fall, other big name brick & mortar brands like Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch, and American Eagle, are suffering a similar fate.
This trend has put the spotlight on digital commerce, as online retailers are blamed for edging out formerly popular brands. The underlying issue however, isn’t one of digital or traditional, nor is it one of brand name popularity. The driving factors behind the current retail shift are customer satisfaction and convenience.
The efficiency of e-commerce has altered consumers’
expectations of navigating choices, buy-cycle time and
customer service. People choose to shop online because they have an expanding array of options – not just of products, but brands, prices, and even delivery methods – available instantly at their fingertips.
In RadioShack’s case, they had developed a niche in providing formerly hard to find electronic devices and expertise. But this advantage has since been washed away by online forums and online merchants. Their longevity in the electronics space was a result of convenience – prior to digital commerce, RadioShack was the quickest way to fulfill electronic needs.
So what do these changing expectations mean for business to business commerce?
“Enhancing convenience will encourage customers to buy more. Most people want to consume, and will often do so in greater amounts if obstacles are eliminated.” In order to be perceived as convenient, provide lots of information, and always be available.
Consider anytime you’ve had to shop at RadioShack. Odds
are one of your electronic devices wasn’t working correctly
i.e. a cord needed to be replaced between your CPU Monitor and your cinderblock –sized hard-drive. Not only did RadioShack have the cord you’d need, but an in-store rep to help you find a purchase the exact cord you needed amongst a wall of seemingly identical choices.
The most common obstacle to purchase in B2B markets is often information and expertise. In the past, like in the RadioShack example, customers were dependent on sales reps to help them identify the right product to purchase. Information and expertise was facilitated by the rep.
But today, costumers will engage with your brand long before you engage with them. In fact, by the time customers finally do interact with a rep, they’re already 75 to 95% of the way done with their decision-making process. It’s important to understand their pain-points, and guide them towards a solution to their problem. By providing expertise in the form of a blog or online content, you can catch prospects early in the funnel as they research, and they’re more likely to turn to your company when their ready to purchase.
Step two is having that solution readily available. People want to buy when they are ready to buy. E-commerce expedites sales by offering greater convenience and personalization in buying experiences. Visitors can easily navigate sites, review items and move to check out processes and place orders. With online configuration, complex products like equipment can be sourced just like simple saleable items. Plus, mobile commerce enables shopping and purchases to take place anytime, anywhere.