23 Dec 2013

NZ retailers told to improve online shopping experience

7:20 am on 23 December 2013

A digital marketing expert says New Zealand retailers need to change their bricks and mortar shopping experience to mimic the convenience of online shopping, if they want to entice customers into their shops.

Local retailers have been feeling the pinch in a competitive market, with heavy discounting and online transactions increasing by close to 20% this year.

Clothing retailers have been particularly hard hit, and last week Hallenstein Glasson said its profit would fall even further if summer sales don't pick up.

Reachmedia general manager of sales and marketing David Nation says retailers need to start using mobile technology to make shopping on the street as attractive as going online.

He says customers should be able to use their mobile phone to research what they want, then locate items instore and buy the goods without having to queue.

Mr Nation says New Zealand is three or four years behind what is happening in the United States, where online sales remain less than 10% of all transactions, but where he says the online investment has actually increased store traffic.

He says that will happen in New Zealand but it will depend on where retailers invest their money and what they see as their priorities at this point in time.

"Their priorities should probably be around the mobile device because that's the one piece of kit that we have on us all the time and whenever consumers are bored or looking for something to do they turn to their mobile."

Mr Nation says in a few years time consumers should be able to do a lot more evaluation before they get to the store and will probably go to the store with a lot clearer idea of what they want and where it's located.

Mr Nation says the American brand Sephora provides a good example of the way shop assistants will work in the future.

He says they are not there to make the transaction, but rather to provide the consumer with information about what the product can do and create hype around the product.

Mr Nation says some retailers here will be introducing mobile technologies in their shops in the next six months.

Smiths City to take advantage of online presence

Listed department store retailer Smiths City, which reported a rise in its half year profit, says it plans to make the most of its online presence.

The group has 27 stores in New Zealand, mainly in the South Island, and its managing director Rick Hellings says retailers need a savvy online strategy to survive.

He says there is a price advantage through buying online, and the GST issue is a real one for retailers.

Mr Hellings says it's up to individual retailers to recognise that they are now operating in a global economy and to change their strategies to meet that challenge.

He says Smiths City uses its website to provide information to customers before they enter the stores, and when they arrive.

Separately, the latest figures show a pick-up in spending in the lead up to Christmas.

Reserve Bank figures show spending on credit cards rose 3.5% to $3 billion in November, compared with October, and was 7% higher than the same month last year.