To stock or not to stock? A question that puts many a retailer into a quandry…

As a Director at Network Group (NG), I often get asked about the condition of Indie computer retailer space in the UK. It’s certainly hard work out there, and supporting our members has, as such, never been more important. However, I think it can be argued that there has never been more opportunities on the table for indie retailers - Cloud,VR, IoT and Smart Home, to name but a few massive game changers.

But before you can be successful with these, you need to get your foundations in place. In this blog series I am going to explore one of the simple things that strikes me most when I am visiting computer stores around the country and how I believe, in order to capitalise on any of the aforementioned sectors, this gap needs to be correctly addressed for retailers to be competitive in an ever-changing retail world.

When I travel at home and abroad, I always find time to check out the local PC stores. As a bit of a geek, I am always keen to find a new bit of hardware that I have not seen before, perhaps a cool mod or even some retro kit that brings back memories. Over and above this I am always on the lookout for new ideas for supporting customers, maximising repairs and of course sales, that I can bring back to my own store and, in turn, share with our own community of IT retailers amongst Network Group members.

Sometimes it feels like some retailers are not even trying - untidy stores, out of date posters and often not even a smile on the face of the person greeting me in their store. These are all too common observations. Then there are others who initially look amazing, almost like mini tech oases with happy staff and clean floors! But when I ask to see a product, they don’t carry it in stock.

The trouble is, as everyone probably knows, Amazon and other big etailers are taking the fight to the high street, luring shoppers away with next day delivery, low prices and huge ranges of products. But - and this is a biggie - etailers can’t let me know what the product feels like, how it really works, and importantly, will it fit with my existing hardware? These are all questions a good Indie retailer is in the prime position to answer. And once they have answered it they should then be able to easily sell it, but due to a lack of stock I believe they are missing out massively on sales.

To Webroom or Showroom

There is a consumer shopping pattern emerging that is best described as Webrooming and Showrooming. First of all, Webrooming refers to the shopping process that starts with online browsing and then leads to buying in-store. This type of shopping allows customers to touch, feel, and test products before purchasing. And also, to have face-to-face interaction with an expert in the store. Research shows that Webrooming works best with products such as appliances (58% of purchases in this category); and electronics (54%). Generally, there are no shipping costs associated with these purchases, nor the inconvenience of parcel delivery if they are not at home, and customers receive their product immediately if it is an off-the-shelf purchase.

On the other hand, Showrooming is when a customer’s shopping process begins with in-store browsing and then leads to an online purchase. In both Webrooming and Showrooming paths to purchasing, it becomes apparent as to why a retailer should hold enough stock.

These days, customers are wanting a full brand immersive experience. And it becomes less important where their touchpoint begins with your business, than what they experience when they do engage. Have your store ready!

It’s a generation thing.

Research shows that shopping preferences vary by generation, and retailers and marketers should target customers based on these generational differences.

Whereas studies indicate that baby boomers shop in store; millennials shop online – as an example.  The baby boomers value one-to-one interaction and expect knowledgeable customer service, and respectively the millenials value and are influenced by word-of-mouth. There are other generation markets to explore too.

According to industry experts, when it comes to your store and your customers, here are just some of the areas to review and, if needed, revise your retail marketing approach:

  • Look at ways to re-invent the in-store experience
  • Go beyond traditional retail – use an omni-channel marketing approach that integrates the different methods of shopping available to consumers
  • Mobilise your store associates
  • Focus on personalised service and in-store incentives
  • Encourage customers’ opinions and showcase reviews or ratings on your website

As a theme for 2017 in Network Group, we are highlighting the need for all of us to become Shapeshifters in our businesses in order to adapt, be flexible and ready to receive the massive changes in consumer behaviour, and the whole spectrum of digital transformation impacting everyone's lives. This same approach applies to being customer-ready for the best experience in your store, with a right amount of stock and mix of products and ranges.

Next time we’ll explore more of why it is important to hold good stock in your store…

Author - Craig Hume, Network Group Director and owner of Utopia Computers; edited by Karin Dubois