Retail adjusts to a digital age of ‘clicks and bricks’ where online complements traditional destination shopping. When it comes to retail, Hames Sharley is involved with the ‘bricks’ – everything that matters about designing and developing great retail places customers will want to visit. Paul Greenberg gives us a unique perspective on the ‘clicks’.

The seven deadly retail sins

In my role as the head of the National Online Retailers Association (NORA), I speak to retailers every day.

We are a resilient lot, and in my view, Australian retail has reached a turning point. Our industry is gradually facing up to the issues we need to address, but not everyone is there yet.

Since, as the biblical saying goes ‘the truth will set us free’, I have created this checklist of the ‘seven deadly sins of retail’. If you haven’t done already, it’s time to repent and redeem yourself.

Here’s how:

Sin One – the risk of inactivity

Australian retail has been slow to respond to customer’s changing needs and wants, amplifying the disconnection between a tech-savvy hyper-connected shopper and an industry grappling with unprecedented change. But we are catching up fast. Real fast.

Sin Two – the customer came second

Australian retail has clearly put stakeholder interests significantly ahead of its customers. In pursuit of profit, we have fallen behind in technology investment, choosing rather to sweat old and creaky systems to generate bottom line profits. Short-term gains for long-term pain? Is not in the best interests of the customer or shareholder.

Sin Three – control

Australian retail likes to control. But control is harder in hyper-connected digital times. The customer hunts in packs, and they trust each other more than they trust brands. We are learning to give up traditional forms of control and embrace the conversation. The conversation comes before the transaction. We get true control by giving it up.

Sin Four – the tyranny of distance mindset

We might be forgiven for thinking we are an island. In fact, we are not any longer. The digital age transcends sea, time and space. We feared the invasion of hordes of global retailers, forgetting that we are free to do some invading ourselves, in rich markets, in our region and beyond. Don’t get mad, get even. The flat world is our friend if we see it as such.

Sin Five – innovation lock

We forgot to innovate. We used smokescreens to blame our problems on acts of God, like the exchange rate and unequal global sales tax regimes. We wasted valuable time and energy on this. We forsook the customer, prevailing publicly on the government to levy another tax on our customer. It was not government calling for tax, it was us. And even though our points made rational sense, the customer did not like it. We are learning to innovate to win our customers back, not dominate. (And the tax relief will come. But not by our hand. By the right authority, government).

Sin Six – channel anxiety

Customers don’t think in channels, they think by brand. As an industry, we are learning to give up this obsessive channel focus. Sure, let’s give our customers multi-touch points to our brand but it should feel seamless and whole as they move between the many ways they can engage with us. We are calling ourselves, well, just, ‘retailers’ again.

Sin Seven – fear of failure

In the past, we risked inactivity, for fear of failing, but failure is our friend in new retail. We are owning ‘failing forward’ as an industry, recognising that small failures are the pathway to our new success.

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