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Online isn't the future for everyone

At Drapers I spend many an hour writing about the world of omnichannel and how this is where the recent visits future of retail lies, however my recent visits to indies as part of our awards judging have left me questioning this view.

Several retailers I visited last week do not have ecommerce website. They have sites that display products and flag up promotions, which both in turn help drive people to the stores. At first I was a little surprised that retailers in historic town of Colchester wouldn’t want to extend their customer pool by launching online, but I soon found myself coming round to their way of thinking.

The obvious reason for smaller retailers not selling online is that it costs a huge amount both in terms of resource and time. If you are going to launch online for the whole world to see then it must look like a slick operation and not a clumsy homemade shambles or else people won’t want to shop online, let alone come into your store.

What independent retailers have that sets them aside is their unrivalled customer service, something, which is difficult to transfer to a digital world. These are the kinds of shops that call you up if a jumper they think you might like comes in, or irons your shirt in store while you relax with a chilled glass of wine – no matter how much technology advances it can never rival this.

While the digital sphere may be throwing up a whole host of opportunity for larger multiples who rely on social media and the like in order to create a personalised relationship with shoppers, for smaller stores a smile and a helping hand on the shop floor will keep loyal customers coming back time and time again.

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