I have to admit it. It has been really sad to see a favorite store like Borders prepare to close its doors and become a piece of history. It was a great place to read books and magazines and to just hang out. When I went into my local Borders last week to check out what was still left after weeks of markdowns, there wasn’t a single chair in the store for my husband to sit on and wait while I checked out my favorite topic. Even the shelves and fixtures were up for grabs for the right price, and those comfortable chairs were apparently the first to go.
What happened? Was it another casualty of our current economic situation? Was the rising popularity of eBooks to blame? Not entirely.
As I pondered this question, I remembered a comment made by a friend in Borders a couple of months ago when we were told our local store would remain open. He said that he absolutely LOVED Borders, but seldom bought a book from them. Like many of us, this avid reader would check out Borders’ merchandise, then go home and buy used copies for a fraction of Borders’ price on Amazon.com.
Let’s face it. It used to be said that to be a viable business, a retailer had to have an Internet presence. Not anymore. Now a business must have 1) an attractive, easily navigable and searchable website storefront, 2) competitive pricing, and 3) intelligent optimization and web content marketing so potential customers are directed to its website rather than a competitor’s when searching for the products or services it offers. (Can you believe Borders actually had Amazon run their website from 2001 to 2008? For a quick recap of additional reasons for Borders’ demise, see http://www.businessinsurance.org/the-8-reasons-borders-went-bye-bye/)
I predict that many more stores that carry the type of goods that don’t have to be checked for size, fit or freshness will become a thing of the past as time goes on. Let’s face it. You can walk into Wal-Mart to find a toaster oven, make note of the brands and models they carry, go home and find out which one has the best customer ratings on the web, and then go back to Wal-Mart and pick one up. Or, you can simply go online to research brands, find the best price, place the order, and have one delivered to your door in a fraction of the time (particularly if you include standing in line to pay for it in a store like Wal-Mart), probably with a cost difference that more than makes up for any shipping costs, and possibly even better quality than those on Wal-Mart’s shelves.
It’s a no-brainer. It is also the reason why internet-only retail businesses continue to multiply like rabbits while even the brick and mortar stores we love are disappearing. Although we still watch DVD and blu-ray movies in our homes, Hollywood Video is long gone. Netflix beat them on four different fronts: great marketing, convenient internet ordering, home delivery and streaming video. Blockbuster is working hard to compete in this new arena, but is greatly lacking in marketing. I never knew they were offering a movie mailing service like Netflix until I saw it on their website while writing this article. And their website doesn’t have a single, clear page spelling out all the options available. I rented a DVD from a Blockbuster dispensing machine at a gas station recently, yet nowhere on their site was that option or location even mentioned, at least where I could quickly and easily find it. That’s called shooting yourself in the foot. Twice.
Doing business as usual is like having a death wish. Innovation, coupled with great Internet marketing strategies that include a website that works for you rather than against you, is critical to survival.
What do you think? What kind of store fronts do you think are here to stay, and which types do you think will be next to bite the dust?