It should have been a raging online success for Australian retailers – a pre-Christmas event bringing together hundreds of local stores to create an online marketplace unrivalled in Australia’s digital history.
The aptly named ClickFrenzy was designed to kick start the holiday purchasing season with an Australian flavour – with local retailers aiming for a greater slice of the estimated $16 billion spent each year online. It appeared to be a match made in virtual heaven – retailers with full warehouses and consumers waiting with wallets fattened off the back of low unemployment and stable economic growth. What could go wrong?
Like Any Failure, It’s Not About the Technology
When the ClickFrenzy servers went down minutes before the 7PM launch, Facebook and Twitter exploded with frustration. But the seeds of this failure go back years.
For decades the retail sector has been under-investing in technology. Despite having international eCommerce startup superstar BigCommerce sitting on their doorsteps, most Australian retailers steadfastly resisted committing to the online purchasing experience. Some of the largest of retailers launched poorly designed digital stores with clunky and outdated user experience, limited product lines and pricing models that were less than sharp. The excuses are many and varied, but at the heart I believe it’s a case of the The Innovator's Dilemma – retailers past success has created the obstacles preventing them from succeeding in the face of changing markets and technologies.
Retailers Were Blindsided by the Connected Consumer
Over the last couple of weeks I have been speaking a lot about the disruptive impact of technology. The Connected Consumer has transformed the landscape and outflanked most brands. They are discovering, debating and deciding what they will buy well ahead of the traditional marketing funnel.
Retailers may have seen this change taking place but have not undertaken the transformation in strategic thinking, execution and delivery that is required. They did not dig their well before needing the water. They did not follow the most basic of customer centric models (see below).
The Good News – Retail Now Has a Burning Platform
As I suggested recently, the under-investment in technology by the retail sector has been possible because there was no “burning platform”:
People still bought goods – especially appliances and larger items in stores, and “online” was considered risky, unreliable, and difficult to navigate when it came to returns, warranties and customer service.
Many retailers in the past have made many excuses for poor online execution, appalling digital strategy and non-existent or simplistic social media engagement. I am half expecting to see the same again.
But Australian retailers should wake up and smell the smoke. It’s time for a dramatic rethink from the ground up. It’s time to delve deep and understand the fundamental transformation that has taken place in consumer markets and to work with the disruption in a way that transforms the nature of retail. It’s time for digital marketing transformation.