What a week: not one, not two, but three massive brands enter or expand their roles as marketplaces. There really must be something in the idea that such platforms are increasingly the place for retailers and brands to sell.
News that Carrefour is opening up its marketplace offering to Spain and Belgium – having already rolled it out in France and Poland – offers a potential new window into these markets for UK retailers and brands and cocks a snook squarely at Amazon in these countries.
There is also some snook cocking going on at Google, which thanks to the roll out of its Shopping Action Programme is aiming squarely at taking on Amazon as the ‘shopping search engine’ of choice for consumers.
And finally, Instagram is not so much cocking a snook, but shaking up the snook barrel with the introduction of its Shop Now buttons in the UK and several other markets, allowing retailers and brands that use the social site to make their images shoppable.
In a normal week any one of these things would be notable, but with all three coming along at once – and around the time that Internet Retailing Expo gathered the great and the good of retail together in Birmingham – I think marks a clear shift in online retail away from the increasingly ‘old’ world of retailer websites and moves us ever-closer to the world where shopping takes place on the places where information is consumed: where the goods find us, rather than we find them.
I know some people will view these stories are hyperbole and cry “Emperor’s New Clothes”, but I disagree. No, they won’t take over retail all together, but there are significant numbers of people using things like Instagram already to make this a sensible move. Rather than replacing retail as we know it, these ‘new’ ways to do things will be done in addition to how people already shop. They are just new platforms to add to the old.
This does, however, have a massive impact, however, on a number of aspects of retailing, branding and what it means to be a retailer.
Firstly, it extends the idea of omni-channel retail way beyond the triumvirate of in-store, online and mobile. Now, omni-channel will have to also include search, social and possibly even media platforms (as we have seen in previous weeks with eBay and its shop the look outtings with Mashable and Time Inc.).
Secondly, it is going to change the face of branding, loyalty and marketing. There is a strong argument that the Google Shopping Action plan in particular will just start a price war with Amazon and see anyone selling through these platforms race to the bottom.
Equally, with items being sold because they satisfy search criteria, look nice in a photo or are being worn by a Kardashian, sort of destroys the traditional idea of brands and marketing.
Together this price war and brand death have a huge potential impact on loyalty.
Is that a bad thing? Is there such a thing as brand loyalty these days anyway? Do we need a change in how we look at brands and should fashion in its broadest sense be democratised? I think yes: I think change is being forced on the retail industry by the consumers and the retailers and brands need to adapt to survive.
No, not everyone will be selling on Instagram. No, not everyone will be selling via Google search. No, not everyone will be selling in Spain via Carrefour. However, enough shoppers will be looking in these places to make it worthwhile being on them for many retailers and brands. And that is quite a shift: and probably enough for one week.