Successful Retailers Run in 3 Firms

Online retailers, especially mid-market and bigger, are really in three companies: selling products to customers; applications; and publishing.

Retail commerce is now the convergence of in-store and online shopping. No matter a specific merchant’s business model — be it online-only or brick-and-click — that merchant claims for clients across channels.

Mid-market and larger retailers are actually in three industry: retail, software, and publishing. For most, it’s not possible to keep growing without adopting all three companies.

The Seamless Retail Business

Seamless retail — what many call omnichannel retail — is the notion of selling consumers the particular products they want or need when they want them, where they want them, and how they want them all with a consistent shopping experience.

To get a pure-play ecommerce merchant, seamless retail may mean offering subscriptions, providing products to lockers, or working with carriers to permit customers to change the shipping destination in the last moment from home to work.

Brick-and-click retailers may include click-and-collect, wherein shoppers place an order online and pick it up in a store or product locker as part of the omnichannel or seamless strategy.

A successful merchant is good at, well, retail. It has a choice of products which are priced correctly and in stock when a customer wants to purchase. It excels in shipping, customer support, returns, and promotion.

The Software Business

Ecommerce as well as brick-and-mortar retail has a very low barrier to entry. An entrepreneur can begin a drop shipping business utilizing a SaaS ecommerce platform in a matter of hours.

As a retail company grows, however, its applications demands will expand too. Inventory, which in a small company can be handled by manually typing amounts to an ecommerce platform, becomes even more complex when you sell in several channels, such as Amazon or a physical shop, and when you will need to track not only flat-rate stock, but all stock in several warehouses or on order from your company’s suppliers.

Consider the inclusion of accounting applications or the need to utilize the electronic-data-interchange format to place orders with your providers. How will these new applications needs be incorporated? Who will maintain them?

What’s the company storing human resource information? Who’s handling the payroll or benefits applications? What software is the advertising department using? How can that promotion applications integrate with the ecommerce platform or the physical point of sale?

As retail businesses get to the mid-market, those shops almost always require in-house development capacities either to handle software integrations or to cancel the relatively large cost of some software solutions.

This shouldn’t be a halfhearted effort. Mid-market ecommerce companies specifically, and mid-market retailers generally, should adopt software development. This means hiring the appropriate employees and investing in the appropriate tools.

By way of instance, for product information management systems — PIM — and ecommerce platforms, a NoSQL database might be a substantial competitive advantage. Does your retail company have the experience to understand why that could be the case? Or even set opinions of its own?

To be effective, retailers will need to be in the software business, too.

The Publishing Business

I recently attended a seminar for the advertising leaders from about 20 mid-market brick-and-click retailers representing billions of dollars in annual sales between them.

A distributing company, which all of those retail chains are members of, hosted the conference and developed the exercises and sessions.

During one of those sessions, these advertisements leaders were split into four classes. Each group has been given a very comprehensive, four-page customer character. The client personas ranged from loyal fans to individuals who may not have heard of a specific retailer.

The facilitator asked these experienced professionals, a lot of whom had over 15 or 20 years of retail marketing expertise, to work in their group to come up with a single advertising campaign — the best campaign possible to participate and attract their specific customer based on the character they were given.

All four classes picked some kind of content marketing. The particulars of these content advertising campaigns surfaced as the client personas differed, however, given only 1 effort to reach a client group, each one of those retail-marketing leaders thought content advertising would work best.

Thus in the event that you sell products at retail, then you likely have to be in the publishing business, too.

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To be effective, you must realize that content promotion is a rather long game. You want to invest more time and build an audience for your own content. Concentrate on providing your audience with real value.

Your retail company will also have to spend, either in-house or contract, in editors, copywriters, photographers, and videographers. And, according to the creator of the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi, you need one more thing that media companies have: an editorial assignment.

This mission is the particular plan for your content advertising. It defines your client. It describes how your articles addresses your clients, and it explains the way your client will benefit from your articles.

Want to become a successful ecommerce merchant? Be a writer, too.

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