Retailers expect eCommerce to contribute positively, but unlike their customers, they are not willing to switch to new technologies as fast. The Netherlands are pioneers, but Belgium lags behind according to HR service provider SD Worx’ European survey.
Web shop is not mobile enough
What is eCommerce’s impact according to retailers? That is exactly the question HR service provider SD Worx asked nearly 500 retailers that employ between fifty and thousands of people in Belgium, Germany, France, Great Britain and the Netherlands. The results show that 62 % has its own web shop, with clothing and shoe stores leading the way, unlike DIY chains, which are at the bottom. The Netherlands is at the forefront overall: 76 % has a web shop, Belgian retailers are second to last, with 52 %, marginally ahead of France with 48 %.
The web shop itself is not mobile enough: only 31 % has a website fit for smartphones and across every country, only one in five retailers has a mobile web shop (21 %). The differences between countries are large: Belgians are clearly bottom with only 9 %, but the Brits have adapted the most (30 %).
Omnichannel strategy pays off
Retailers do see that eCommerce has a positive impact on their sales and nearly three out of four (70 %) thinks this will only improve. More than 60 % even thinks that those who do not invest in eCommerce will face problems in the future. Regardless of the increased online competition, customers still want to shop in physical stores. Most retailers are convinced that a combination of physical and online will be required in order to continue to be successful.
“We at Esprit firmly believe in a clear omnichannel strategy that merges online and offline and that focuses on the customer experience and needs”, Esprit General Manager Europe, Dieter Messner, said. “In Belgium and the Netherlands combined, we currently offer our omnichannel services, like Click & Collect and Click & Reserve, in 80 % of stores. By the end of the current season, we will have implemented these services in nearly every store. It has been a resounding success, with Belgian sales even surpassing our forecast. Esprit launched its online sales business fifteen years ago and has garnered a lot of experience along the way, but we have also kept our store investments and we will keep training our store teams to provide an exceptional service.”
No threat to employment
SD Worx retail expert Peter Van Ostaeyen does not believe that a thriving eCommerce industry will negatively impact employment rates. “Some areas, like the smaller retail stores, may suffer from eCommerce’s impact, but others will require a lot more people, like new online chains or flagship stores. In essence, employment will merely shift, especially if we do not ignore the fact that eCommerce also creates jobs, in logistics, storage and distribution. Retailers that invest in an omnichannel strategy and merge offline and online customer experiences, those are the ones that will win. Both will contribute each other and enhance the customer experience, but our research shows that only 60 % of the retailers is currently working on an omnichannel strategy. That means there is still a long way to go.”
Another challenge retailers face is how they use their staff. Online sales skyrocket in November and December, with a 25 % sales increase across Europe in the holiday season. “Retailers can become much more efficient if they were to use staff where and when they are needed. Big data analysis will help to accurately predict when and where the busy periods are, allowing an even better customer experience”, Protime CEO, Peter s’Jongers, said.