Thursday 15 June 2017

A Sad Day

A business presentation for traders had to be cancelled today due to lack of interest from traders and that deserves some kick back..

Australia Post were to present to traders on some of their latest innovations in their online customer engagement and parcel delivery services. These have been globally identified as two key elements for retailers looking to move with the times as consumers trend to technology and convenience when buying goods. But the presentation at QVM was cancelled due to lack of trader interest.

Food delivery services are growing in popularity, fired up particularly by Amazon's relentless march to same day delivery for all its customers. Australian and international air travellers are constantly hounded by airlines to reduce their luggage. So it is surprising that, with thousands of tourists on our doorstep everyday, very few of us offer a convenient delivery alternative to help guarantee that we get their business. And the presentation by Australia Post was cancelled this week due to lack of trader interest.

Online buying is a growing component of consumer decision making and it is no wonder why. Two weeks ago on a Wednesday I discovered that I was about to run out of printer ink needed for printing labels and leaflets for my market business. At two o'clock on that Wednesday I placed an online order with a Melbourne printing cartridge supplier through eBay. At 10 o'clock the next morning (less than 24 hours) the cartridges arrived at my post office for pickup. That is service, although if I am honest, the postage gods were unusually active that day. Yet a presentation by Australia Post to show how traders could offer online services was cancelled due to lack of trader interest.

There is a tendency for some traders to separate retailing into bricks'n'mortar and online. That is partly because they are quite different in nature and partly because online seems a little too technical to comfortably embrace. Change is hard. But our customers have no such problem. They are simply looking for a convenient way to buy goods and whether we like or not, that will sometimes mean visiting a shop, and sometimes buying online, or at least over the phone. I recently had reason to search for a watch online for a special family occasion and I was astonished at how web presence has changed. I found the usual niche online watch suppliers but they are now joined by Myer, David Jones, Thomas The Jewellers, and a whole range of mainstream retailers. Try searching online for a common shopping item and see how many traditional retailers show up.

Personal and personable service will always be our strength as market traders but it will not be enough on its own. As retailers we need to offer those extra services that help grab sales, no matter how foreign or uncomfortable they might be right now. Simple logic suggests they will become second nature, and it is all those one percenters that add up to success.

And one final point - Walmart in the US announced this week that they are thinking of asking employees to deliver customer orders on their way home as part of their war with Amazon. One commentator described the idea as "crazy". Nobody has the magic bullet to retail success. Obviously the big boys of retailing are really struggling to find answers just like us. Market Traders are not alone in this revolution but we are a little more flexible. Constantly informing ourselves and actively making smart changes will give at least some of us a good chance of success.

And one more final point (sorry). This is not just a Trader problem. QVM have to go full steam ahead on promoting our wonderful market through all the means at their disposal. They also need to ensure that smart renewal changes that will prepare our market for the future get through the various government and interest group blockades. But they are only part of the equation. Active, hungry, entrepreneurial, and informed traders are critical to QVM's success. There is no room for "lack of trader interest".

By Greg Smith