My Scary Trip through the Amazon….

Alone, deep in the jungle, so small and insignificant, pitted against nature, still I sensed someone was watching me. Or watching over me. Someone could see me, someone was providing for me”

― Yossi Ghinsberg, Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival

Teetering at the entrance, I cannot deny I was apprehensive, perhaps a little frightened, yet nonetheless very excited . All my anxiety dissipated on my meeting my guide, who explained everything to me in a very calm and professional manner. As with many things in life the first few steps were tentative.

And I was in. There was no going back . Well there was, but not the way I came in . I would have to complete the entire trip.

I had entered my first Amazon Fresh Store.

Amazon Fresh, Chingford, North East London

Somehow, it was not what I had anticipated. Although I am not sure what I was expecting . A Convenience store is a Convenience Store, no matter how you dress it up. However, it is a smart (both technologically and appearance) looking store. There is a clean and fresh feel about it and I found the ranging particularly interesting. I think I expected very basic in terms of product but that was not the case. Yes it did have the basics but it also those little extras that make, well I think so, reason to go in more frequently . The bakery section had good looking product plus those slightly different offerings such as Pastel De Nata (yep, egg custards) . Prices looked probably better than most convenience stores.

I spent just over five minutes looking around. How did I know that ? It will be diagrammatically shown later. Bought some odds and ends , that I did not need, but wanted to see how it worked and then just left . So I will explain in a touch more detail. I picked up some items put them into a supplied paper bag and walked out . It was truly seamless and very simple and convenient.

What was a little surprising is the demographic of those other consumers who were in store at the same time as me. I can only measure approximate age group and they were all 50+. It was a good quick shop experience. No queuing, no trying to find non existent bar codes at self checkouts and I suspect from the retailers point of view much reduced stock shrinkage from shop lifting. How so ? You may ask. The theory is when you pick something up and put it on your personal being, Amazon knows . It’s the eye in the sky, or rather cameras absolutely everywhere. So the moment you walk out with something no matter how well you think you may have hidden it , you will get charged for it.

The one thing I did not try was to buy alcohol (which they sold) , there must be some personal interaction, probably from the excellent Amazon Guide, from a legal age perspective.

Later that day my receipt (below ) came through. Note it shows how long I was in store .

So is it the future of Retail ? Yes, in part ,it is. It does not answer all the future problems of retail nor does it suit many product sectors ( and I am pretty sure it is flipping expensive to install and operate) but it is most certainly going to be part of the mix.

Yossi Ghinsberg is an Israeli adventure who got himself lost in the Bolivian Rain Forest . Repeating part of his quote from above I think is a very apt way to illustrate that the there is a very close relationship between the Amazon Rain Forest and the Amazon Fresh Store. So for those of us who are not fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit the Amazon Jungle can get a flavour of it by going into an Amazon Store….

……..still I sensed someone was watching me. Or watching over me. Someone could see me, someone was providing for me”

Have you heard ?…Retail Stores are the thing of the future …….

Shops on the High Street ….you wont see one by Spring 2023

Old Saxon Retail Times

There wont be a single bricks and mortar shop left in the UK in 12 months

George Porkpie

I ain’t got that intanet thing.. ‘ow am I going to buy me stuf..

Ivy Asbeen

A great deal has been has been reported about the rapid demise of the Hight Street Store, never more so than in the last two years , so the following may come as a bit of a surprise.

In the past 18 months, retail has gone through one of the fastest and most demanding transformations in the past decade. As a result, the role of the physical store has and is changing profoundly. For example, retailers are embracing new functions that are key to define the quality of the shopping experience delivered to customers.

Despite the “online-shift” assumption, the physical store is actually gaining centrality in retail’s operations. 76% of retailers agree that, following the pandemic, the store is becoming a more important asset in the customer shopping journey, expanding its role as experiential and fulfilment hub.

Retail Gazette/IDC January 2022

The fundamental role and purpose of retail stores are changing. Digital transformation forced brick-and-mortar outlets to evolve as more of the path to purchase shifted online. Now, as e-commerce expands, retailers are reimagining the functionality of stores and tapping into digital tools to keep those stores relevant.

Physical retail will remain the largest and most important channel for the foreseeable future, but how space is leveraged will transform. In Euromonitor’s recent Commerce 2040 virtual event, Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis, noted that stores are no longer a singular touchpoint in the shopping journey; now, stores play several roles, becoming platforms that serve multiple missions and stakeholders. Michelle Evans -Forbes December 2021

Whilst this a welcome step, it is important to consider two words in the IDC report.

Experiential

Fulfilment

What this implies is an environment where you can undergo the experience of the product or service . Plus the store will be a smaller fulfilment hub .

Not that there is anything wrong in either concept as the key factor will be bringing the consumer back onto High Streets or other retail environments.

An example of an Experiential store is…….yet here is another ‘flippingeck moment ….Netflix

Netflix is expanding its retail operations further as it announces plans to open its first ever permanent physical store next year.

The streaming giant, which opened its debut online store last month, plans to open a high-tech physical store in Tokyo, Japan, in 2022 aiming to “merge the virtual world of the internet with the real world”.

Netflix is understood to be introducing a host of experiential features to its new store, while selling a range of merchandise from its most popular shows in line with its online offering, according to The Japan Times.

In other words Disney store with attitude.

Here’s another Experiential Store, which offers a truly strange but very interesting possibilities

London’s Westfield shopping centre partnered with teams at TikTok to create the concept. The pop-up has an area of about 370 square metres and will be open until 8 August (2021)

For shopping centres, it can be a tool to attract more visitors again, after the decline caused by corona. ” TikTok has become a cultural phenomenon. It’s where many of our visitors are getting their inspiration from, whether that’s fashion trends, the newest home styling influencer or foodie fads”, says Harita Shah of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

Retaildetail.eu

Who would have thought five years ago that there would one let alone two types of Amazon physical stores?

-Amazon Fresh Stores -checkout free grocery convenience stores (currently 15 in the UK)

-Amazon 4 star stores- Range of 4 star plus reviewed products from the Amazon web site (currently 2 in the UK

Amazon Fresh -Wembley UK

Who would have thought five years that IKEA would open Town Centre ‘Convenience style’ (my words) stores ? It is not actually that small at 4,800 square Metres but it is on the High Street-and is small in comparison to their regular stores.

Who would have thought that any of this was good news ?

I do .

Well at least in part.

What is the one common feature of any type of retail ?

They all need to have Customers.

What is the one common impact of all these developments?

They, all , for many different reasons, will attract loads of potential customers. Whether it High Streets, Town Centres or Shopping Centres, it will bring old and new consumers back in numbers

Over the as last fifty years, town’s main shopping areas have had a corner stone or key store attraction. These were often Department Stores, most of which have gone. Even the ones that are left have reduced their exposure (eg John Lewis ).

Whilst many of these Brands maybe considered anathemas to many , there is no doubt they are crowd pullers. What these Brands understand and are very good at, is Branding . Part of that branding is the permanent reinforcement of being on a High Street. They also see the value of physical locations within centres of population as the retail environment continues to develop.

And whilst many retailers may not see this as welcome news, they should maybe re-evaluate they way they operate and take advantage and welcome these potentially dynamic changes. Flipping’ eck it is, I think a very positive step in bringing people back on the High Street in numbers.

Moreover, whatever we think of any of these brands and where they pay their tax they still employ in big numbers and they attract spending in big numbers. The independents out there, and maybe next door to them, just need to make sure that some of that spending goes into their tills.

‘It ain’t easy ‘ ….Being an online retailer !

It is also the title of a David Bowie song from way back in the early 1970’s, way before the internet, but not door to door van deliveries. My ‘Old Mum’ used to give her greengrocer a written list and he delivered it to the front door a day later. And she was doing that in the sixties. No internet, no iffy broadband, no crashing web sites, no ‘out of battery‘ phones. Pen, paper, man in greengrocer and a green van ( colour that is, not in the slightest bit eco-friendly) . Simples as a wise Meerkat once said.

That Greengrocer eventually closed because of the rise of the supermarket. What do you make of that because my mother then had to drive to get her greengroceries. Now, it was not down to my mother that all independents closed, but there is some irony in that some consumers lost an element of convenience in the name of convenient shopping.

Race forward sixty years and we are back to delivering our purchases via a method somewhat more complex than pen and paper. Before the shout goes out about the Internet killing the retailer , unfair competition blah, blah, blah., lets just take a gander (Look for non native English speakers of whom I know there are a few , or at least one or two)over the last 18 months . With the various lockdowns throughout Covid, the retail environment would have been even more dire. Dare one say the emotional health of the nation would have been somewhat worse the wear, in that costumers were , when finances allowed, able to indulge in a huge variety of product, whether books ,puzzles, hobbies, household products, clothing , all product that was not essential but enabled a slightly better environment when you were confined to your own four walls.

So if we can make the case that all online operations are not all bad then I think it is only fair to look at the case as to why they should not get quite the bad press most of the media seems to give them .

Whilst these 2 Charts are from different sources and slightly different years , it helps to illustrate the way retail is moving

There are broadly 3 types of B2C operators

Those who sell on the market places eg Amazon, eBay & Etsy etc

Those that operate their own Web shops

The Third being those who operate on both

Let’s examine the the second ie those who trade via their own web shops.

Before doing that it is important to make thing clear about online operators , for the most part they do not operate on the High Street therefore their rent and rates will tend to be lower than a Bricks and mortar equivalent per square metre. There ends in my view their main economic cost benefit .

Basic Higher Costs for Web shop operators Vs Bricks and Mortar

1.Unit size tends to be much larger than equivalent bricks and mortar
2.Stock holding is likely to be much higher
3.Technology both hard and soft high cost of entry due to much greater demands on the systems
4.Greater number of SKUs-Independent brick and mortar (in Party) maybe 6000+ ,web shop more like 30,000+
5.Can take up to 30 minutes to load one new product onto a web shop (that is similar for the market places, if not more so)
6.Very high cost of marketing or web awareness. It would be no exaggeration to say this can be in 6 figures
7. High cost to maintain awareness
8. Cost to deliver (no cost to Bricks and mortar). Current major issue is a problem concerning shortages of drivers
9. High cost to maintaining customer loyalty (Since there is no face-to-face interaction like in a retail store, the development of trust and loyalty takes more time and effort in eCommerce)
10. Cost of returns (Over 60% of online shoppers look at a shop’s return policy before making a purchase.)
11. Cost to pick and pack
12. Increasing IT requirements such as data analysts

These are just some of the cost issues. Other barriers facing B2C e commerce platforms are (all involve cost at some point)

Online identity verification
Overall cyber security
Shopping Cart Abandonment (apparently this can amount to anything between 60-80% )

Many of these issues can be offset by using the market places such as Amazon & eBay. Yet these have their own pitfalls in terms of there is, of course a cost, pricing is very aggressive, you can be competing against a far bigger supply chain, and you are reliant upon the whims the platform you are using and subject to their rules.

Here’s a fascinating little fact

It takes about 50 milliseconds (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your website that determines whether they like your site or not, whether they’ll stay or leave.

sweor.com


and another …….

47% of Users expect a maximum of 2 seconds loading time for an average website

sweor.com

yet another ….

Users spend an average of 5.59 seconds looking at a website’s written content

sweor.com

Take the sum of these 3 stats and you are not looking 8 seconds in total. It takes that long to walk into a shop before you have begun to get an impression of what is on offer. That said there are some retailers where I have made a very precise decision not to enter in a fraction of that time , which will say loads about those particular shops.

The following diagram may also illustrate how being an online seller is not that straight forward. Show me a bricks and mortar retailer that is faced with any of these dilemmas.

Governments have talked much about taxing the ‘ so called‘ advantages of the online operators . There maybe an argument for the likes of Amazon, but for the rest it is taking a sledge hammer to crack a nut. There has never been an argument for additional taxation for the supermarkets .  Tesco & Sainsburys alone take over 42% of the market. Who had it before they existed (as supermarkets) ? The independent retailer . It is how retail evolves. The market place has to adapt as it always has. Nobody said it was going to be easy.

No Retailing is easy. It never has been, and it wont get any easier. It has to evolve to survive. There will always be the ‘naysayers’. Online is here to stay and so are good bricks and mortar retailers , we started with Bowie so I’ll finish with Ike & Tina Turner

Working together we can make a change

Working together we can help better things

Ike & Tina Turner 1970

Bit of a shame Ike didn’t think more about some of the words he sung , but that does not detract from the essence .

The Future Consumer ….

The current UK government will have redesigned the future consumer as a very svelte like creature arriving at our gleaming, but empty, shopping centres in vast swarms of cycling health freaks. Some would have arrived in electric cars but they had not managed to build any charging points. This scenario having evolved from their policies on reducing obesity. Naturally, the whole concept will be inspired by ministerial cars being replaced by high performance racing bikes, or maybe E Bikes.

Reality is a little more complex. Most businesses (involved in selling products to consumers) spend a great deal of time looking at what the retail landscape will look like, what the future trends are, the economic future , spending habits and ways to market. Yet do they actually look at what the consumer will look like (metaphorically speaking) ?

It came as a bit of a surprise when looking for research there is not much going in . Or rather there is , and always has been, a lot on consumer behaviour but not on the holistic consumer. By this I mean, the whole package . That’s is to say behaviour, social interaction, physicality of the individual, thinking process, social awareness , family sizes, cultural approaches , education, spending power, in effect everything goes to make the everyday consumer. Yes there is plenty of research in each and everyone one of these components and I know most major retailers have some form of futurologist within the organisation. However, there seems to be little which really looks at the complete person, In so far as there ever can be such a creature.

Hence I was somewhat, initially pleased, but ultimately disappointed when I recently, read a report by an Organisation called Raconteur.net publishing a report called The Future Consumer. It spoke at length about the future consumer but much of this was based upon the effects of Covid. I would not hesitate to accept that Covid will have had an impact on the Consumer, I am not convinced it is the comprehensive Shape Shifter it is being described as. Yes, it will have moved a additional sector of society into shopping online. Yes, it will have made an impact on the way we work (though once again I am not thinking this will be as long lasting as suggested. See what happens to those working from home during a miserable winter. It focuses on and suggests fairly nebulous plans about connecting to the consumer.

Craig Inglis ,Chair of the Marketing Society Raconteur..the Future Consume. September 2020

There are other influences that go beyond Covid that are just as powerful in shaping the future consumer, Environment, climate, technology, education and wealth to list just a few. Covid has, to a degree, brought forward the timeline. There is no doubt that a section of society that were new to online purchasing during lockdown will remain online. But not all and furthermore they will not buy everything online. Those starved of the retail experience, apart from queuing outside supermarkets, suddenly missed the ability to go to shop.

I am not convinced that the issue of working from from home or rather the desire to work from home is quite as strong as all the pundits claim. Yes, there will be a change but not as big as big as people think(see previous paragraph). Climate and environment is in a very confused state as the consumer edged back to using cars as public transport was deemed unsafe.

Wealth, health and education all being linked. In that those who have a good education, tend to be wealthier and healthier. The sum effect does throw up some light for good independents, in the more affluent areas of society. The consumer has become aware of its good local independents . They have got (or at least some of them) have got used to walking to them and seeing their offer and being surprised (positively mainly , I think) . The combination, perhaps of working more from home, and in walking distance provides opportunities for the good local independent to connect to this ‘new consumer’ and build relationships that will help their business to flourish long in to the future. The less fortunate, invariably have a poorer choice of independent, if there is any choice at all. So no change there then, the less fortunate become even less fortunate.

So many retailers, amongst those some of our biggest have managed to get their predictions of the Future Consumer so wrong. M&S has got to be at the forefront , their decline started way back , probably at least fifteen years. You just need to look at their approach to online, having only just got their food offering up and running , then only a small part of it and then only through a third party (Ocado). Even the big supermarkets grossly misunderstood their customers potential behaviour when the European discounters first came to our shores (Aldi, Lidl). Consequently they are all only playing catch up.

Hands up, this is not an easy game, predicting the future consumer . You could say that there have been few that get it right. Like it or not Amazon is perhaps the one that stands out. Twenty three years ago, Jeff Bezos (technology achievements aside) seemed to know what the consumer would buy into, in the future. But then I am not sure it is rocket science (or even technological science) convenience, consumer confidence, value pricing and above all the consumer experience, are surely precursors to those who wants to retail. There are those who argue, quite rightly, that he (Bezos)does not care about much else, but we are talking about consumer perspective and here he wins hands down.

IKEA is perhaps another. When they first expanded there was plenty of flat pack furniture around but not in the way that IKEA envisaged it. Nor in the environment they created . ‘The plenty’ no longer exist . IKEA enabled the consumer to visualise a new environment and consequently helped in developing a new consumer . The same perhaps could be said about Terence Conran(in the UK) in the sixties and seventies. Not that he sold flat pack furniture but he saw how the furniture consumer was changing . Unfortunately, when he sold the company, the new company did not continue with that vision. But Conran cannot be considered a global shape shifter moreover his influence was on a relatively small sector of the market. I suspect there are few consumers, in the developed world who do not know of Amazon or IKEA. There are, of course, other future proofing brands available. Those non future proofing may not be around for as long as they think.

Whilst gently lambasting Raconteurs research , I did feel the diagram below was helpful in illustrating some of the effects of Covid on the existing consumer and data such as this, needs to be considered when looking for the future consumer

Raconteur..the Future Consume. September 2020

There are no options. Or rather there are two. You do nothing or you at least take the opportunity, especially in the current climate, to look around at the changes you can see happen in front of you and take a view on what may happen. Back to no options. If you do nothing , nothing will happen or rather , as sure as eggs is eggs, things won’t improve there is a very good chance they will only deteriorate. If you look around , make some guided assumptions and act accordingly, you have an opportunity, if not to get ahead of the game at least keep up with it.

Consumers, by definition, include us all

John F Kennedy

That being a truism, we all change, develop and evolve . As we are all consumers the same principle applies . If we wish to sell stuff to ourselves we need to have some idea how we change and develop. If as a retailer you don’t someone else will .

Now, more than ever, retailers have got to look long and hard and what tomorrow’s consumer is like. For those that don’t it will not be difficult to predict their future, however short lived that maybe.