Some 50% of retailers at the Retail Business Show believe their e-commerce channels are cannibalising their in-store spend, according to the results of a survey conducted by platform integration specialists Glue4.
The surprise here is not that the online channel is no longer seen as ‘free’, purely additional sales, but that people naively refer to the change in the channel mix as “cannibalising”. This notion that there’s a ‘natural’ or ‘real’ sales channel and that ecommerce is somehow undermining it is quaint at best.
This is tantamount to retailers complaining that the new automatically-opening door is taking traffic away from the old manual doors next to them. Or complaining that the call centre is ‘taking sales’ away from the shops.
I’m sure that when retailers initially commit to the web all sales are seen as additive and free. As they learn more about their customers’ behaviour then they realise that customers see the web as a complementary part of the offering. People can research online, shortlist and then visit a shop to feel the ‘heft’ before committing. The web can also even out distribution anomalies – 12 pairs of size 7 shoes in Exeter, yet none in Aberdeen. An integrated stock system, linked to the eCommerce front end, can make that stock visible to the customer in Croydon, Camden or Lyon, take payment and get the shoes in the post.