When your expertise becomes a handicap- disrupt yourself with Digital

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When your expertise becomes your bottleneck

We were driving by a luxury goods retail outlet when my wife mentioned -“This place looks so deserted now. Wonder how this retail chain is doing overall”.

And that is when I realized that sometimes, your expertise can become a handicap due to unprecedented events.

Luxury goods retail is centered mostly around in store experience. More so in the case of high end fashion apparel (which this outlet was). While Covid19 has forced many customers and hence retailers to eCommerce, the transition is not easy for many type of retailers. If you are a supermarket (likes of Walmart), it is relatively easy for you to become Omnichannel and not lose sales. People know exactly what they need to buy, having biught it thousand times before. They don’t need to “touch, feel and expereince” and they also don’t expect to be “trated with exclusitivity” when shopping groceries.

This actually applies to many volume fashion apparel brands like Old Navy as well. The same styles or styles with same patterns with some variations are consumed by customers frequently. So if they do have to go online, they know their size, how the colors will look as compared to catalog/online pictures etc.

But consider the likes of  BloomingDale or Nordstrom.

Their primary expertise was their in store experience. The feeling of exclusivity and pampering that one experiences in these stores. The ability to “touch, feel and try” some of the most innovative and trendy fashion apparel, in a uniquely designed environment- THAT…in my opinion, was the core expertise of these outlets. Clothes, were secondary expertise.

And now, this pandemic hammered their ability to leverage that expertise. And unlike the other retailers mentioned above, they can not provide the same experience, that they used to provide in their stores, to online customers. In all probability, the customer will not buy a SKU just by looking online. These shoppers are very specific about what they need, how they would look, how will the apparel look with certain jwellery they own and what not. These retailers have a bigger problem on their hand than some other retailers…but the good news is- they probably have a good stockpile of $$$$ as compared to other retailers.

Digital tools can provide a way out

So since these luxury retailers probably have a good stockpile of $$$$ as compared to other retailers, now may be a good time to put some of that to use, to disrupt themselves. One thing is clear- eCommerce is the future and even after the pandemic, it will keep growing as a channel.

So the question for these retailers is – how can they provide the customers the experience of exclusivity, by developing and leveraging Digital tools.

And there are few ways they can do this. They can build an exclusive “Online channel” team, a combination of Digital apps, tools, customer service and a last mile delivery team- that can help their customers experience the exclusivity to online shoppers as well. Details ? Well my wife thinks that I give away too many ideas for “Free” on the internet so I will hold the details for now. But this opportunity is big. And the luxury retailer that masters this first, will be able to develop a “habitized” base of customers who would love to shop on their online portal vs going to a store.


Views expressed are my own.

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