The UK rise of mini-eCommerce

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Helen Parker - The Wholesale CommunityWith Christmas displays already appearing in shop windows and the clocks about to move back this weekend bringing instantly darker evenings, Helen Parker from The Wholesale Forums has started to think about Christmas and how shopping has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. Once the exclusive realm of the High Street, with the rise of mini-eCommerce, Helen discusses how the playing field has opened up to even the smallest of retailers to get their product seen in the online shop window:

Not to sound too Carrie Bradshaw, but I was on my pre-work run this morning and took a route down Oxford Street before the shops were open – I had the advantage of not having to contend with the usual tourist mass tortoise-ing, and spotted the sign in the Christmas displays of Selfridges’ window “Future Fantasy – A Christmas for modern times” (pictured above), and it got me to thinking about how much retail has changed – to a small online seller’s advantage.

I remember about 18 years ago, taking one of the only real options available to me to do my Christmas shopping and contending with the madness of Oxford Street, rushing round every department store fervently scouring for presents for my family. Over the hours my feet started to cry and my arms ached more and more (predominantly because I stupidly chose 2 huge fluffy pimped out dressing gowns from House of Fraser for my brothers, and bottled liquer for my Grandad from Selfridges food hall as my first purchases and COULDN’T LEAVE THEM in case THEY WENT AND CHRISTMAS WAS RUINED) as I endured the stress of Christmas. Fast forward to last year, where from October to December I casually came across things online – either served to me as Instagram ads, or by googling “Presents for boys” – and the surprising thing is I could not tell you now where I bought them from, because it didn’t matter. They arrived over the course of the months all wrapped and ready for the season of jolly.

If you look at the news you’d be forgiven for thinking that retail was dying a death, but in fact according to the ONS report from Aug 19 there is a 3.4% increase on last year… but more importantly there was an 11.8% increase in online sales from all sectors except department stores. The Independent reports that 1 in 5 pounds being spent in the UK is now being spent online, and although we all know a lot of this will be with Amazon itself, a significant amount will be with independent online sellers or SME retailers through their own shops or one of the giant marketplaces (Amazon, eBay, Etsy)– and why?

INstagram mini-ecommerceThe obvious answer is that everything is accessible, but the truth is also more nuanced – because we actually get to see it. One of my good friends received a bracelet from me last year, that I was served on Instagram whilst sitting infront of the TV, bought within 3 clicks and it was only afterwards that I realised it was from a store in Abbot Kinney, Los Angeles around the corner from her apartment! She went round and thanked them and it is 1 guy sitting in a tiny boutique who said he was as shocked as anyone else at how far his Instagram ads had reached. That would not have been possible 10 years ago, on many levels!

So how does the independent retailer take advantage of this? Marketplaces and Social, mixing your spend and targets based on your product set. Leaving marketplaces to one side for another day – how about social?

Facebook is an obvious example, but there’s a reason they bought Instagram. Hootsuite reports the interaction rate on Instagram is 2.2% vs. Facebook’s 0.22%. Of the 1 billion people using Instagram every month, 500 million log in daily – 60% of these also discover products their want to buy. Looking at the example here you can see how buying a relatively low cost product advert makes it really easy to see goods and purchase. But there’s also another player which is often forgotten but offers huge product selling benefits – Pinterest. According to Sellbrite, 2 million Pinterest users save shopping pins daily, 87% of users report that they have purchased a product because of Pinterest and 40% have a household income of over $100k per annum.

The real lesson here, is that there is no longer a single way to market – in the old days of retail reaching an audience meant persuading a big retailer to stock you in store – now the entire world is your store, the effort now is to go into as many different distribution channels as possible. And with the rise of mini-eCommerce, with a good product, even the littlest of retailers can be seen by the world.

3 Responses

  1. Anyone advertising on Facebook these days has to be very careful in the way they target potential consumers because, as we’re now all too aware, ads are rapidly becoming incredibly annoying.
    Instagram users will also no doubt have started to see a significant rise in ads recently, which suggests that Instagram is heading the same way as Facebook.
    In my opinion, Pinterest is the place to be right now, at least for a while, but it’s crucial that advertisers use social sensibly, because the scattergun approach employed by inexperienced users can make the water very muddy indeed, necessitating the need to move on when the sheer saturation of irrelevant ads threatens to kill the golden goose.

  2. @Helen Parker Your experience of shopping on Oxford Street would be a lot different these days. There is a new service in town as you shop your items will be placed in a secure bag and taken off you to be delivered to your home the next day or a day of your choosing.

    I was unlucky to discover this great service when taking the wife to a concert in Wembley, she wanted to look around the London Designer Outlet (LDO) in Wembley Park and my thinking was that it would not cost me a lot as we were going to a concert. As you can imagine, I was very very wrong… The next day Parcel Force delivered many boxes!

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