Retail and hospitality have been two of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic – with more jobs lost in retail than any other sector. In fact, clothing stores saw the largest sales hit during Lockdown 1.0 – losing 65% compared to the same period in 2019. In contrast, golf seemed to manage pretty well. Its innate Covid compliance – outside and well-distanced - meant that golfers could get out and enjoy the game. This attracted many lapsed golfers back to the sport and enticed some to take it up for the first time. All this play meant that golfers needed to buy kit but, with retail stores closed while golf was open, buying golf equipment and accessories became pretty difficult. Naturally most people jumped online to shop. Those retailers that could sell online had a bumper year while bricks and mortar stores experienced poor sales. Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been a huge shift towards online across general retail so, what could this mean for the golf industry?
The first thing to consider is that, while internet sales are growing, they still only account for a relatively small share of the retail pie. 2019 saw 14% of overall retail sales online, which is expected to grow to 22% by 2023. So, while not insignificant, it still means that bricks and mortar account for more than £3 in every £4 spent.
Digging a little deeper in to the online sales stats, we see that a large part of online sales involves a physical store interaction. It appears that, as online sales increase, Click and Collect appears to be a growing trend. Although the pandemic will have distorted some of the data, the reality is that customers are very happy to buy online but many want to collect the item instore. According to Statistia, before the Pandemic click and collect accounted for circa 50% of online sales for the likes of John Lewis and Next, and 75% for Boots. While this dropped during the lockdowns, there is still a clear desire for customers to interact with stores to get their products.
"It appears that, as online sales increase, Click and Collect appears to be a growing trend".
So why are so many customers that shop online choosing to Click and Collect? According to a KPMG study before the pandemic, the main reason for consumers to buy online was the ability to shop at all hours of the day: convenience being the main driver. To support this, another interesting stat is that Mobile is becoming the dominant platform with 54% of sales. People want to be able to shop wherever they are. However, there is a difference in shopping and actually getting the product. According to Forbes in a 2019 study, 68% of shoppers used Click and Collect. The main reasons for doing this were:
- Reduce shipping costs by picking up items in store.
- Speed offulfilment, with customers often able to pick up on the same day. In fact, the latest study conducted by Bell Howell showed that 88% of respondents cited speed as a reason for using Click and Collect.
- Assurance that the product is right. Two of the biggest challenges with online shopping is assuring fit and covering physical product attributes. Completing the purchase in-store allows customers to inspect the product and return it there and then if it isn’t right.
Customers still want to interact with stores but how they interact is changing. What does this mean for golf? Those that shop online want to shop in their own time: perhaps making their own decisions, and they then want to know that the product is in store before they go and get it. However, many Golf retailers will have to be realistic about who they can offer Click and Collect to. Generally, it will be local customers, as most retailers don’t have a network of stores to provide pick up locations. The question is how can we provide some of the service and convenience that customers are looking for, but through local stores?
"Apps also tend to give a better, and quicker, experience while delivering additional functions that work offline".
As ever, the key is to focus on existing customers and members, and offer the benefits of Click and Collect to satisfy those that might have been looking to buy online. The usual go-to for many is the ability to provide an e-commerce site. However, for the smaller retailer, this is often not viable. At the start of the third lockdown, XPOS launched the XPOS Caddie app to allow its retailers to offer a “Reserve and Collect in store” solution to their members and shop customers, without the work of running an e-commerce site. While ‘general’ customers browsing the web won’t be able to access this, what it will do is satisfy many existing customers that XPOS retailers already have a connection with.
The XPOS Caddie app provides many benefits over a website, including the ability to communicate with the customer with push notifications. Apps also tend to give a better, and quicker, experience while delivering additional functions that work offline. The main advantage of the XPOS Caddie app is the integration of the company’s centralised product database, XCODES. This provides all the information about stocked products, including descriptions and images, automatically with little, or no, effort on the part of the busy golf Professional.
The Reserve and Collect area of the XPOS Caddie app is populated via the sales system. If products have been stocked in, they’ll appear in the app. Information, including images and web descriptions, feeds from the sales system and is based on current stock levels. Golfers using the app can view their account balance, vouchers, book lessons directly with their coach and receive SMS messages from the pro shop.
The XPOS Caddie app may not provide all the answers, but it does enable retailers to satisfy the needs of many of their existing customers and deliver a more complete service. Feedback from customers using the app has been very positive with some commenting that they are now selling in their sleep. One golf retailer, who promoted the XPOS Caddie app to many of his members during the lockdown this year, actually managed to increase his sales on last year – even while the shop has remained closed.