At one time, maintaining a successful business might have been as simple as offering a good product, at a decent price, using great service. Those things all matter, but we’re seeing more and more that it also includes keeping ahead of the curve on the ways that service is provided.
Without paying close attention to demographic trends and shifting consumer preferences, even some of those with the excellent, value-priced products risk falling by the wayside.
One local company with a country-wide presence is well aware of that and realizes action has to come before crunch time.
Sobeys Inc. announced this week that it has signed an agreement with Ocado Group PLC, a British company specializing in online grocery ordering, automated fulfilment and home delivery.
While we might not see such a groundbreaking approach to grocery sales in Pictou County in the immediate future, the company’s first such centre is in the planning stages for the Toronto area.
But it’s not hard to see this is a concept whose time is approaching, and consumers in Canada and other countries are likely to see retailers, particularly dealing in groceries, undertake similar sales and distribution.
Long live the supermarkets and other stores as long as significant numbers remain content to get out and do their shopping in person. But preferences are obviously changing, and new ways to make purchasing more convenient for customers is inevitable.
Business reports for a number of years have been telling us how companies like Amazon are breathing down the necks of traditional storefront retailers. A significant number of consumers do like to make purchases online, and when the seller includes “free” shipping in the costs even at relatively modest prices, the prospect is that much more enticing.
It’s making a world of difference in the store scape of cities everywhere. Going back a number of years, who would have expected a giant like Toys R Us to fall on hard times? Yet the retailer filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. last September and is now about to close 20 per cent of its outlets across that country.
It’s not hard to imagine other stalwarts suffering a similar fate.
And when it comes to the appeal of online titans, just witness the response from cities across North America hoping to host a second headquarters for Amazon.
Other factors contribute to the speculation that online orders represent a growth area. With an ever-higher proportion of seniors in the population of Canadian cities, getting out and about for otherwise day-to-day errands such as grocery shopping will be more difficult for some folks.
Add to that the advent of driverless vehicles, and programming deliveries will become pretty routine for many larger companies.
It might not be ‘welcome to the future’ quite yet, but we can sure see it coming a mile away.