There is a considerable amount of speculation around working from home, virtual fairs and online selling. Speculation that many of the face to face connections that used to be normal will no longer be possible. Office meeting rooms will suddenly become available for booking (yeah really!)
As a Retail Buyer, are you ready for this?
I, for one, find this difficult to imagine, I love the touch and feel of product, the smell and the taste, how can I make a judgement online for any of these factors, these sensory activities that tell my brain this is quality this is not? How do I choose one product from another other than the price and what I am told to expect?
This is already a huge challenge to sellers; how will they solve this problem for their buyers? To send samples may be possible for some categories but definitely not for others. If you have a product to sell, you need to be thinking about this NOW and making a strategy for selling going forward.
Having been fortunate enough to buy product from some of the most luxurious brands in the world, it would be extremely difficult, not to say a lot less fun, to select from an order book. Even if the driving force is the BRAND, and what it stands for, a good buyer will want to be involved in the selection process from that brand.
However, cast your mind back, those old enough to do so, before the masses shopped for everything online, bricks and mortar shops were the norm, High Street shopping expeditions were an everyday option and browsing was acceptable. None of us would have considered that the only way to see something now was to commit to an order and hope it was the size and shape you were expecting.
Today there is very little that cant be bought from the internet. How did this transition happen? What made it ok? Its been a gradual transition, but no one can dispute it is here to stay and growing every year by considerable amounts.
The big question with online shopping is, how do you deliver the customer satisfaction, what makes it a good, even great, experience? Where is the emotional connection now?
In my opinion the big difference is still to feel it is personal to you. Maybe you are one of 500 looking at an item but when it comes to parting with your money you want to feel that it is just you and the cashier, albeit a computer. You want feedback, you want reassurance you made a good decision, you want to know if it wasn’t as expected you have a route of escape from your transaction. Your want to know the journey of the product, maybe its authenticity, sustainability, credence, so much more information than you would have considered before.
You feel the anticipation of delivery, this alone creating a new emotion, an excitement that the product will exceed your expectations.
Back to Commercial Digital Buying, how can you replicate this change in emotion, from personal presentation (like bricks and mortar) to trust of remote purchasing? One of the challenges is replacing the sensory stimulation with other strong receptors. The onus is on the supplier to make this as engaging as possible and create more ‘virtual’ excitement about the selection process. What will the buyer want to see? Product presentation on models? product being tested? dimensions, weights, comparisons, etc etc.
Back to the renewed values the internet has placed on product differentiation, as mentioned, authenticity, sustainability, credence, and, add heritage, craftsmanship, uniqueness and you start to paint a picture of differentiation.
You can argue its not the same, and its not easy to do this, however, as Buyers and Sellers, we have to adjust to the changes that will be forced upon us and learn to adapt.
One thing is for sure its going to be a new evolution.
Id love to hear your thoughts, and be excited to discuss your ideas on how to change the selection processes going forward.