THE advent of the digital age posed a tough challenge for traditional retailers as their businesses have to slug it out against virtual operators, online stores and applications that promote e-commerce.
Globally, even famous retailers have marked a 20-percent decrease in sales for the year.
“These days, you do not see who your competition is,” serial entrepreneur Pacita Juan of ECHOstore says. “They are there in the galaxy of the Internet; and you have to just surf and find increasing numbers of merchants in your category.”
ECHOstore is not backing out from the challenge.
Juan, together with ECHOstore cofounders Jeannie Javelosa and Reena Francisco, had to evolve and think like millennials.
“I had to research on what they buy and what makes them want to buy” says Francisco, research and development and merchandise designer of the ECHOstore troika. Javelosa concentrated on their women-sourced crafts, bags and accessories under two brands: currently “Great Women” and, soon, “World of Women” or WOW. Javelosa writes for their web site and has even written a book to chronicle their foray into social enterprise.
Tips from youth
ASIDE from beefing up an online presence by redesigning its web site, ECHOstore also tapped the expertise of its younger consultants. As a result, ECHOstore was able to penetrate into the minds of millennials and the younger generation who have now joined the market segment that ECHOstore belongs to, Juan said.
Health and wellness, love for environment and love for stores with a cause, has embraced the younger market who now just buy through their mobile phones, not even setting foot in any of ECHOstore’s “brick and mortar” locations, she added.
Furthermore, the younger market is also composed of health-conscious families, as mothers go with the “attachment parenting” trend where kids are nursed and carried by young mothers while they perform daily routines.
Juan noted that millennial males have also come to ECHOstore to get their beauty and personal essentials. Men buy from the physical stores because they still want to touch the product and maybe smell the variants first before making a purchase. The men’s products are the biggest growing category and ECHOstore has suggestions for grooming, personal care and even household cleaners.
It has helped that the store was featured by actor Paolo Abrera in his show on cable TV. The store also gained media mileage in other TV shopping shows.
Apps for shopping
BESIDES boosting its shopping site, ECHOstore also tied up with providers like Foodpanda for food deliveries around the cities of Makati, Taguig and Cebu. Consumers download the app and then place their orders for dishes in ECHOstore’s café.
Another shopping app for groceries is Metromart. Riders literally shop for and pay for the purchases from several stores with one destination. The service is available for the Makati and Serendra stores for now, Juan said, adding there are plans to make the service available in Quezon City, which is covered by the ECHOstore branch on the Centris Walk.
Juan said ECHOstore will continue to increase its online presence and discover new and different ways to reach the growing customer base. It is predicted that sales for green and eco-friendly products will increase by 20 percent annually and ECHOstore wants a slice of the green pie.
She added the store is hooking up with logistics providers who can bring their community products from Ilocos to Manila and Davao or Cagayan de Oro City. Juan said the plan specifically includes meat products from Bukidnon to Davao without these passing through Manila.
“This logistics approach using a portal will also make their goods more affordable as the freight costs will soon be optimized,” she explained.
Evolve and survive
ACCORDING to Juan, the modern retailer cannot just sit and just wait for the customer to walk in.
One must talk to the customer 24/7 and address his or her every need, cater to their queries or lose them to someone else, almost at the same time as someone is also migrating to ECHOstore from another site, she said.
Present on Facebook, Twitter and last year on Instagram, Juan said ECHOstore plans to go regional for its expansion. “We are active in the regional setting because we think the Asean is looking for a similar concept to go overseas,” added Juan, ever the visionary who likes to look beyond the country. She also chairs the Asean Women Entrepreneurs Network until May, which has a growing following on Facebook and Twitter.
“Entrepreneurs who are still in the traditional mode better shape up or throw in the towel,” Juan said. “Today, you keep up with the trends, or you die.”