Pocket retail: personalisation and localisation are the secrets to success

August 22, 2013

in Location & Context, Smart Retail, Strategic Foresight

ebay ios homepageI started this post wondering whether eBay will be a Player in Pocket Retail. I buy the point that many small retailers won’t win if they are not part of the broader retail landscape. And yet, I’m skeptical about the claim below by eBay that joining the world’s largest marketplace is the winning or best strategy for a retailer down in my local village today.

The research provides a compelling argument for retailers to look for a trusted partner when it comes m-commerce. eBay offers consumers access to the world’s largest marketplace from just one app, which is why smart retailers and brands are using eBay as part of their mobile strategy. We partner, never compete, and offer a platform where $20bn of global mobile commerce is expected to be transacted this year alone. via Mobile retail: five years after eBay’s first e-commerce app | Media Network – Partner zone eBay | Guardian Professional.

We are moving to a world where the local retailer is no longer just trying to manage participating in an online global market. Rather they are trying to get noticed locally and build relationships back into their customers’ pockets. That’s something customers now want and increasingly expect.

From Online to Local and Social. Many a small business has looked for additional sales via eBay and Amazon. In many cases this relationship and broader footprint kept the proprietors in business while local business slipped away. However, these online marketplaces don’t help with the promotion and management of  local business. As a customer I can’t go to the eBay iOS app and do a location search to see which sellers are available or nearby. While I can tweet or facebook my purchase off Amazon this provides little additional information for the retailer who’s looking to take a customers need seriously to the next level. It also excludes retail opportunities for services like painting, haircuts or getting a coffee.  There’s a synergy that could exist between local and online and my customers that is currently out of reach for the small business.

From Item sales to Business platform: While  eBay or Amazon can pitch my goods (and perhaps one day services) globally, they aren’t well equipped  to help me in-store, and on location. Here we have the two major shopping platforms with limited support of real world shopping. Both have benefited (I’m sure Amazon more so) from customers doing price comparison shopping. To my knowledge neither of these drive a customer back to a local shop if their query puts them nearby. In Amazon’s case a store in store strategy may not be attractive. In eBay’s case it could take them to the next level. Putting eBay retail on the  map may also provide additional credibility for sellers. It could also provide new shopping experiences. Example I go into a local store and bid on items – if I win they are shipped to me. To get there Amazon and or eBay need a “register” product. The reality is it may or may not need to completely tie-in with the retailer’s own cash register at the moment. If the item is listed then the “register” in my pocket can take care of the business. Apple stores can do this. Why can’t an eBay/PayPal enabled business?

There are other potential players in this business. From Square, to Apple and Google. The big shift that is coming (here already for some) is we expect our local businesses to be in our pocket and that may make the difference between going to the shop to buy, and buying it online and waiting for delivery. Many times I’ve wished my local Ace Hardware shared their stock with me. My Bakery might also get more business if I could just check what they might have.

In a country like India, the local bakery and cake store or the grocer still thrive on personalised and localised service. You would think nothing of calling the local cake store to see what they have. They will also deliver it for free. In the US I’d be highly unlikely to get such service and that local bakery may well have gone out of business years ago. We have lost the personalisation and localisation that made small businesses thrive.

Pocket strategies present an opportunity to bring them back.


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