E-Commerce Platform: Survival of Offline Department Store

The emergence of very many e-commerce platforms has seen so many well-known stores close down due to failure to adapt to this new form of business. In Indonesia, famous stores like Ramayana Department Stores, Matahari Department Stores, and Lotus Department Stores has already closed down their stores in most parts of the country since the inception of online platforms. This fierce competition has forced the conventional stores to think outside the box and come up with new strategies or shopping concept to survive the global wave of e-commerce. Most private sector directors are advising stores operators to adjust to the changing behavior of consumers in order to stay alive.

According to deputy chairman of the Indonesian Retailers Association (Aprindo), the only logical solution to the departmental stores is to develop an online platform, an online-to-offline system, or switch their product concentration to be more appealing to the modern consumer. This changing trend seem to be taking shape globally, with the modern consumer preferring a simple small store that specializes on specific products and more importantly using the online platform to buy their goods, thanks to smartphones and internet.

Even with this knowledge, many retailers are trying to catch up with their peers by developing an online shop, but the consumers seems to be more inclined to already established e-commerce platforms such as Secoo, Alibaba in China. The reason for this behavior is largely because consumers are placing more trust in these well-established e-commerce platforms, and also due to their higher channels of distribution.

Interestingly, those online retailers who have been in the industry long enough to be call pioneers, like Amazon are changing gears. They have realized that they can’t get by without bricks and mortar. This change of tact comes as a surprise considering Amazon’s ‘the future of retail is online’ slogan. They have already started their first physical book store in Seattle. This has been widely viewed as a way of appeasing the traditional retail having established themselves online for a long time.

It is not only Amazon shifting focus to physical shopping, it has been a trend especially in the United States in the recent years. This wave has seen more than 20 online companies in the US launched a physical presence to better market their wares, forge closer customer relations, and yes, boost online traffic and sales. Some of these companies include; Bonobos, Birchbox, Casper and Warby Parker. Another outstanding reason for this shift is an imperative around ‘omni-channel’ retailing. This concept aims at providing customers with a seamless experience whether shopping online through a computer or a smartphone or at a traditional store.

While embracing the same narrative, Alibaba seeks to create a new world, where the distinction between online and offline commerce disappears, and the way the consumer thinks and behaves across all channels determines how business is run.

Many researchers seems to belief that it is very hard today to launch a brand that’s only online.

Luxury e-commerce platform Secoo has been left behind too. They created an offline experience centres for its consumers to help in driving its website in a more lifestyle-oriented direction. In addition to that, Secoo also launched a pop-up cocktail bar to promote its new premium cocktail line. According to Secoo’s CEO, Secoo is keen on embracing the online-to-offline trend. According to him, this shift gives a customer a more intimate luxury experience thus setting the company apart from traditional retail space and other major online and bricks-and-mortar rivals.

Perhaps, the reason which informed the recent partnership between Secoo and the British giants, British brand Liberty London, is the continuous online-to-offline system.

Combining cutting-edge artistry, forward-thinking design and a sense of how to make people feel seen, Liberty has been a destination of discovery since the store opened its doors in 1875. From the start, the company’s founder Arthur Lasenby Liberty sought to make beauty an everyday endeavor, partnering with progressive artists, nurturing artisans from unexplored continents and reigniting the British textile industry with a range of artistic and innovative fabrics.

Today, Liberty stays true to its design heritage through its own Liberty London Collection of exquisite accessories, silk scarves, sleepwear, soft furnishings and stationery.

Combining original print design, fine production processes and continually evolving technologies, products in the Liberty London Collection remain at the forefront of style.

Through this partnership, Liberty London will synchronously offer premium and luxury bags, leather products, gifts and stationaries to Secoo’s over 20 million high-end members. Selecting Secoo as the exclusive online partnership reflects the same strategy for both companies to create a trend for the future development of luxury industry by offering unique and distinct products and services to consumers through online platform and also seek to enhance their physical presence through online-to-offline platform in the form of “offline experience centres”.

For the Chinese citizens, it is difficult to imagine departmental stores have a future, not with the influence the e-commerce has in the country. But many retailers especially those involved in fashion and beauty industry have realized that the next logical growth step is to take their online marketplace, well, offline.

Renata Clack

Renata Clack is a reporter for Spruce Tribune. She’s worked and interned at Glboal News Toronto  and CHECX. Renata is based in Toronto and covers issues affecting her city. In addition to her severe Cinnabon addiction, she’s a Netflix enthusiast, a red wine drinker, and a voracious reader.

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