I was having dinner with a close lawyer friend recently who told me that she was surprised when I started The Third Row because she never saw me as someone who cared much about shopping.
She was absolutely right. I do not love shopping.
But I do love design.
I do love supporting independent businesses and buying from people with a story.
I do love shopping from stores mentioned by my favourite bloggers, Instagrammers and magazines because I trust their recommendations.
I really don’t want to spend my time trying to remember and search independent stores separately to find products whenever I need to buy something.
I don’t want to spend hours trawling through a large amount of average product and photography on Etsy to find the good stuff.
I have 3 kids, a husband, friends and a business, and I want to spend my time focusing on them, not shopping.
I am what Ruslan Kogan, founder of online retail giant Kogan, calls ‘the convenience customer’.(If you’re an independent retailer or designer, Kogan may not be the first person you’d think has relevant advice but he absolutely does – you’ll see.)
The rise of the convenience customer
Here’s an extract from an interview with Ruslan on the Morgans Startup Series (which I highly recommended for any business owner, not just startups) explaining the shift in customer type he’s seeing in his business.
“Traditionally, online retail has been for the educated consumer… they want to shop around, they want to read reviews, they’ll open up 20 tabs and compare the prices of 20 retailers, then they’ll make a purchase from whichever one is giving them the best deal after a lot of research. Whereas the convenience customer is someone who wants to click click buy, have it dispatched really quickly, have it arrive within a couple of days. And then spend the weekend with their kids in the park. It’s the convenience customer that’s propelling online retail.”
An inconvenient truth
Shopping from independent designers and retailers, generally speaking, a lot less convenient than shopping from major retailers. You’ve got an inkling why but let’s spell it out:
- Shoppers can’t compare as many products on their websites as they can on the big online retailers’ websites.
So unless you’re satisfied choosing from 3 pendant lights on Hunting For George (one of my favourites) rather than 324 on Temple and Webster, you’ll need to visit other independent stores to compare products. That’s going to involve more searching, clicking, thinking and time.
- It’s hard to recall their brands because they don’t have the marketing power of the big online retailers.
According to research, when prompted by a product category, most consumers can only recall around 3-5 brand names. That means that when you need to buy some new winter lace-ups which you want to arrive before the weekend, you’ll remember to search Habbot, Hobes, Radical Yes! and Zomp, however you may not remember Alpha60, Kuwaii and Elk, who also sell beautiful shoes but may slip your mind when looking for shoes because they also sell clothing. At ASOS, a visit to the shoe category allows you to compare 81 different shoe brands in one place.
- They don’t have the infrastructure to deliver products as quickly and cheaply as the big online retailers.
When it’s Wednesday and you want the shoes to arrive before the weekend, it’s hard for a small store to beat a big retailer like The Iconic, who offer next day delivery on orders over $50. Most independent retailers and designers require a minimum spend of at least $150 to qualify for free delivery and can’t offer anything better than Australia Post’s Express and Parcel Post services.
How independent designers and retailers can reach the convenience customer
Even the big mainstream retailers like Country Road recognise that in order to reach the convenience customer, they need to be part of bricks and mortar and online shopping destinations that bring many stores into one place, like Westfield and Shopstyle.
As an independent retailer or designer with fewer resources to remain at the top of busy people’s minds – and Google search, it’s even MORE important to be part of a shopping search engine, like The Third Row, or a marketplace so you’re reaching customers who want to quickly and conveniently search many brands in one place.
Shopping engines and marketplaces
Here’s a selection of shopping engines and marketplaces that suit independent retailers and designers.
The Third Row
Shopping search engine | Homewares and fashion | Australia-based
Best for: Independent retailers and designers who’ve been featured in the media in the past 12 months.
Shopping search engine | Homewares and fashion | Global
Best for: Retailers with a high-end product. Independent and global brands.
Marketplace | Homewares and fashion |Australia-based
Best for: Independent designers selling homewares and gifts for women.
Well Made Clothes
Marketplace | Australia-based
Best for: Ethical independent fashion designers.
Marketplace | US-based
Best for: Independent fashion designers and retailers on the cooler side of design.
Marketplace |Homewares and fashion | Global
Best for: Handmade homewares and clothing designers with a craft focus.
Marketplace |Furniture |Australia-based
Best for: Artisan furniture makers.
Marketplace | Homewares and fashion | UK based
Best for: Independent bricks and mortar boutiques in the UK.
Marketplace | Homewares and fashion | Global
Best for: Independent retailers with a product feed.
Designers are pretty well catered for, but there aren’t a whole lot of options for independent retailers, are there? That is, of course, one of the reasons I started The Third Row.
If you know of or are part of any other great marketplaces or shopping engines that help independents access the all-important convenience customer, please tell us about them in the comments.