Why Changing Times in Retail and Online Commerce Demand Consistency

Video Image

Advertising Week

E-commerce has undergone some fundamental shifts in recent years, such as the explosive growth caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services. Throughout its continuous development which is being driven by technology, advertisers, retailers, and customers have seen changes that are a world away from the early days of online shopping.

But now we stand at the brink of a metamorphosis that will alter the very nature of retail. The growth of ‘off-platform’ shopping is set to take ecommerce away from the confines of traditional platforms and turn it into a more ubiquitous experience.

At the forefront of this progress are innovations such as Amazon Anywhere and TikTok Shop, which have ushered in a new era of ‘Retail Everywhere’. For brands and retailers navigating these winds of change, it’s vital to understand the conditions and currents that have driven this evolution and what the likely impacts will be.

Why consistency matters in retail

Since opening in 1909, Selfridges on Oxford Street, London has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to consistency and availability, even throughout troubled times. In September 1940, it suffered heavy damage in an air raid that destroyed its renowned roof gardens and signature window. The store was bombed again in April 1941, then hit by a V2 rocket on 6th December 1944, scattering Christmas displays into the street and causing several casualties. But on the morning of 7th December, Selfridges was open for business.

This remarkable resilience serves as a reminder that consistency matters. Despite having its windows bricked up for most of the Second World War, Selfridges embodies the timeless principle of successful retail: access and availability. This reliability creates the foundation upon which consumer trust and loyalty can be built.

The Age of Retail Everywhere

In the age of Retail Everywhere, this consistent availability must be reflected in the digital world. Not only does the main shopping platform remain open 24/7, but through off-platform shopping technologies, retailers can reach customers via storefronts hosted in shoppable content within all online environments. Retailers can be present wherever the customer is, embedding their offering within the digital fabric that surrounds us all.

But if retailers are going to adopt this model, they need to stick to it, once the brand commits to becoming omnipresent, it sets new expectations amongst its consumers. Consistent engagement must lie at the heart of the notion of Retail Everywhere, with the retailer perpetually present in the digital world, available to its customers at all times.

Blurring the lines between performance and brand marketing

This new model demands a blurring of the lines between performance and brand marketing. Shoppable content cannot be treated as merely a performance tool that can be switched on during campaigns and then discontinued once the campaign ends. It would be like a bricks-and-mortar store suddenly changing its opening hours on a whim; the rhythm of reliability cannot be broken. Consistency demands that customers can rely on these off-platform technologies to be around them all the time.

To succeed with a Retail Everywhere approach, brands need to bake the always-on ethos into their strategies. This doesn’t negate the value of targeted campaigns but simply provides the persistent presence necessary to underpin Retail Everywhere. Long-term thinking must trump short-sighted adherence to KPIs, with retailers understanding that ROI might not immediately rocket. Impressions won’t initially create a flood of conversions, but with patience and consistency, retailers can reap rewards. ROI is incremental and must be built through the foundations of learned behaviour.

It would be a miscalculation to dip a toe into the stream of shoppable content and retreat to the shore when the results aren’t instantaneous. Having the courage to take the plunge is what will separate the winners and losers of  Retail Anywhere. Just because a physical shop isn’t bustling with customers at every moment of the day doesn’t mean it is a failure; having an always-on presence is all about being there when the customer decides the time is right for them.

Retail Anywhere means being available – always

Retail Everywhere isn’t just a channel or a strategy – it’s about committing to be available for your customers at all times, not just today but into the future as well. It’s about making reliability and consistency your bedrock in the shifting sands of consumer expectations. Advertisers and retailers must recognise that the onus is on them to embrace this change. Once they set this new shoppable expectation, it is imperative to keep it switched on.

Consistency isn’t just a principle of retail – it’s the foundation stone upon which the future of ecommerce will be constructed. Selfridges has established itself as an unwavering presence in its customers’ lives not simply through the products it sells, but by embracing a commitment to consistency. The key to unlocking the enormous potential of the new retail ecosystem is availability; not just now, but always.