I’m old enough to remember when Billy Joel was relevant.
In the late 1970s the music world was abuzz with talk about “the new wave” of music emanating largely from the U.K., which had the ethics of punk music without the anger or nihilism. It was taking the airwaves by storm.
Billy Joel, rooted in a more traditional world, observed, “Everyone’s talking about the new sound. Funny, but it’s still rock and roll to me.”
That song comes to mind now, as I contemplate what has been dubbed “The New Retail.”
The aftermarket is trying to get its collective head around new concepts of selling to modern consumers, and you can’t go to an automotive conference these days without hearing multiple takes on The New Retail.
According to a recent report by consulting firm Roland Berger, commissioned by the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, we need to prepare for a retail revolution that starts with developing an omnichannel strategy. With that firmly in place, we can develop effective online-to-offline (o2o) model, which will lure potential customers from their online research into physical stores where they ultimately make their purchases.
‘The New Retail’ integrates online searches, offline shopping, modern technology, and cutting-edge logistics.
You can see how this would be key for traditional jobbers.
The Roland Berger report says that in order to compete with new digital-only competitors, suppliers need to achieve competence in digital marketing, consistent pricing strategies, effective fulfillment options, and a thorough appreciation of customer demographics and preferences.
But as I said, The New Retail does not suffer from a paucity of analysis – much of it conflicting.
According to Michael Zakkour, vice president of Asia strategy at Tompkins International, the West has become “stuck” in omnichannel marketing, while Asian companies have already moved on to unichannel marketing, which creates an even more integrated consumer-first ecosystem.
“Omnichannel is a stepping stone to New Retail,” he writes in his new book, The New Retail: Born in China, Going Global. “China is five steps ahead of the rest of the world on retail, consumption and technology, and how to merge them.”
So for you marketing nerds out there, there is certainly a great deal to process about the retail renaissance that is rewriting everything you thought you knew about selling goods and services. There are new questions to ask, and previously unseen needs to fill. Everything is changing.
But is it really?
Technologies come and go, but human sensibilities tend to stay static. And I would suggest that selling is selling. Successful retail marketing – of the new or old variety – simply means connecting customers with the goods and services they want.
In our business, it boils down to getting the right part to the right place at the right time. It’s that simple. And that complicated.
As Billy Joel would say, “It may be the next phase, new wave, dance craze… but anyways, it’s still rock and roll to me.”