Australian Retailers - Leaders or Laggards?
Australian retailers now have to compete on the world stage. And if you read the Sydney Uni research released recently, we've got a bit of catching up to do. I'll rephrase that, a lot of catching up to do.

A couple of media reports on the research have concentrated on one of the key findings where they describe 38% of all Australian retailers as 'laggards' when it comes to digital commerce and warns that they are at risk of losing customers to foreign competitors.( The research report covers more ground than this and should be read in detail by all involved in retail marketing in Australia.

According to the ABS, Australian consumers spend more money online with overseas retailers than with their domestic counterparts.

Australian companies must now work on improving strategic engagement, to ensure they don't lose their customers to overseas competitors.
So, what do you have to do when you're competing against the likes of Amazon (annual sales 43 Billion dollars - give or take a few bucks). Or ASOS, with revenues of 800 million pounds?

What are the international retailers doing that we're not?

While digital execution has become a necessity for retailers to connect with consumers, Australian companies must now work on improving strategic engagement, to ensure they don't lose their customers to overseas competitors who are delivering exceptional engagement levels," says Ben Gilchriest, Digital Transformation Lead at Capgemini Australia in the Sydney Uni research analysis.

Better rush out and get some "engagement", eh? Maybe even hire one those Strategic Engagement Manager types?

Just what is this thing called "Strategic Engagement"?

Let's first define exactly what we're trying to achieve. Because as a marketer, you're maybe trying to raise awareness, interact with prospects, or create demand. Perhaps even maximizing customer lifetime value is what you want to achieve? These (and of course, others) are your goals, your marketing objectives.

Engagement should not be included in your list of marketing objectives.

It should be thought of as a way to help you achieve each objective on your list. That is, don't think of Engagement as an end-goal, but rather as a strategy to help you get there - hence the term Strategic Engagement.

"Where do I begin?"

Dare we* suggest a catalogue? Many retailers around the world are using an "omnichannel" strategy that includes both traditional print and online channels. Because it works. Customers who receive a hard copy catalogue and go on-line are spending more than web only customers.

Today's consumer has been spoilt by those pesky "foreign competitors" to expect more. The retailers they're buying from give them more content rich catalogues with a balance of product, information, interactivity and entertainment value. Call it a catalogue, a magazine or a magalogue, every month ASOS publishes a 450,000 circulation "good enough to buy" magazine. Free. The bar is set rather high.

An online catalogue can be as simple as a flip book or a more versatile Caszine** style of ePublishing which include links, videos, 360 degree product photos, pop-ups and a whole lot more. It should be created to show the customer you understand their needs, wants and desires and that your product is just what they are looking for and that you are the one they should buy it from and they need look no further - just click the link to go to the shopping cart.

At the very least, your content should suggest, "Whenever you're considering buying something in this category, think about us".

One way to beat them.

Or, if budget permits, you can dive into the deep end with your very own, full on, bells and whistles, catalogue app to get on board the wave that is mobile marketing.

Recent Forrester Research suggests that as much as 29% of all US eCommerce will be conducted on smartphones and tablets this year. If you make sure your app is transactional (rather than sending would be buyers back to your website) you'll actually be putting your company ahead of the game, as the majority of US retailers do not have this capability.

But bear in mind the figures we see for full-blown transactional apps would bring tears to the eyes of most Aussie marketers. Think somewhere in the 7 figures, according to Forrester (Caszine, however, has many of the features customers find engaging but is a much lower cost solution).

Yes, by all accounts, many Australian retailers are lagging behind our international competition but fortunately catching up can be as simple as starting with an offline and online versions of a catalogue or eBrochure that is designed to engage your customers.

Global management consulting firm Kurt Salmon sums it up by saying, "The future of retailing is omnichannel and it includes catalogs".

*Cumming Agency & Studios is a specialist catalogue design agency, winning Catalogue Agency of the Year in 9 out of the last 11 years.

**Caszine is a proprietary software program designed by cataloguers for cataloguers. It provides more engagement than a standard flipbook, linking seamlessly with shopping carts but without the expense of an app.

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