In retail, change is the one constant, Retail NZ chief executive Mark Johnston says.
He’s been in the role just under a year, but his list of changes in the retail sector is already longer than the line to the checkout at an Apple launch.
“Change is driven by new technology and by people with information at their fingertips. They’re researching and shopping online and integrating those channels,” Johnston says.
Looking at the bigger markets overseas gives clues of what’s to come.
In the UK, 20 percent of shopping is done online, while in New Zealand only nine percent of sales are made online, Johnston says.
He’s seen a rising trend of retailers starting with an online presence and then “retrofitting” after validating customer demand.
Plus, the online arena is now staggeringly dominated by mobile. Seventy-five percent of all online access is now through smartphone or tablet in New Zealand.
Mobile payments will become the norm before we know it, Johnston says.
“Apple Pay has the potential to really change the game, I suspect, in the next wee while. I think the first transactions have been processed here in New Zealand.”
Plus there’s huge potential for little old us overseas, Johnston says.
“The number of retailers online which are selling in Asia and to China – our biggest trading partner – is only going to get bigger and bigger.
“China loves New Zealand products,” Johnston says.
But be aware: the traffic is going both ways. Forty percent of online purchases in New Zealand are now from offshore online retailers, Johnston says.
His advice? Watch what’s going on around you, and remember the basics.
“You have to be aware of multichannel and be aware of what’s trending both nationally and internationally, as well as delivering good customer service that creates referral online and word of mouth.”
This story was originally published in NZRetail magazine issue 736, March 2015.