‘Vampire’ marketers are sucking the lifeblood out of more and more traditional businesses. Is your brick-and-mortar business in danger of becoming just another showroom for aggressive on-line marketers?
Earlier this year, Best Buy announced plans to close about 50 of its brick and mortar stores and concentrate on building its wireless and mobile services businesses. The reason?
“Consumers have been using its locations as a testing ground for products before making final purchases at competitors like Amazon and Walmart.com .…”.
First it happened to the music industry, newspapers and magazines – industries whose major product is content, and whose physical form is merely the vehicle which carries the entertainment or informational value. Then Amazon and a host of on-line book sellers pulled the rug from beneath local bookstores and chains. Now, brick and mortar retailers – from consumer electronics stores to women’s fashion to toys, Christmas gifts and specialty foods – are seeing more and more of their in-store ‘lookers’ completing their purchases with on-line competitors.
Consumers and B-2-B shoppers are succumbing to the lure of buying on-line: lower prices, access to lots of purchase options and information, and the convenience of shopping from your office or home.
To judge just how vulnerable your business might be to ‘vampire marketers’ – to having your customers captured by on-line competitors – think for a moment about how your customers interact with you, and with potential on-line competitors.
- Do you rely on someone else’s brand to bring customers through your door? Companies like Best Buy can prosper because we all crave products by HP and Panasonic, Samsung, Philips and Toshiba, BUT Best Buy is also vulnerable because those great brands are available almost everywhere – including no frills on-line discounters.
- Can on-line competitors readily duplicate what you offer, or do you provide a one-of-a-kind product or service? I can save a lot of money buying a suit on-line, but the excellent fit of custom alterations only comes from in-person service. Conversely, use of personal computers, cell phones and other consumer electronics has become so common, and their operation so familiar, that hands-on shopping is unnecessary for many of us.
- Do customers buy your product or service on impulse or a spur of the moment decision? Is it an ‘instant gratification’ sale? Or can your prospective customer’s buying enthusiasm survive the time required to order on-line and wait for delivery?
- Do your customers buy to a standardized set of specifications? is your offering ready to go just out of the box? Or does your product or service require significant customization or instruction before the customer can use it?
No business, of course, is immune to an agile competitor, but your business is especially at risk if a computer can provide as much satisfaction as dealing directly with you. Conversely, by making yourself indispensable to your customers, you can hold the vampires at bay.
Look for Vampire Marketing – Part II, coming up soon, for some practical steps you can take.