I sat down the other day and read the article about Bmobile/TSTT closing their retail locations and 1 particular statistic stuck out in my mind. TSTT said that 70% of the activities conducted at Bmobile locations are “Bill related.” Digicel stores have long been packed with lines stretching out the door at some locations, and I am sure if they collected the data and released it, it may as well be close to the same number as Bmobile in regards to that 70% of the activities is bill related to.
Digicel has placed a renewed focus on open market stores as Bmobile is now, which will allow their partners to focus on device sales, bill payment collections and some other services. Now, this may have been the recipe to build your business as a telecommunications provider or even as a retail partner some years ago, but this is now the most effective blueprint to how your retail store WILL close down.
All over the globe, you are hearing all the experts talk about the death of retail, brick and mortar is a thing of the past. While they are most definitely correct as we have seen giants such as Macy’s, Sears, even Walmart is started to close down a slew of their locations. We have also seen retailers transform their stores into something that offers a whole lot more than just a product or a service.
When Apple had their keynote last month, while people were intrigued with the new iPhone, to me the big announcement was how they are completely transforming their retail locations and turning them into “Town Halls.” A place where they will teach you smartphone photography, app building, have a bigger technician oriented area, coding.
Apple is the first trillion-dollar retail company. They are doing this by transforming retail. It is no longer just about selling products and services in traditional retail. Amazon/eBay are ensuring that if you just need products, they can get it to you in the more convenient way and without actually owning a physical store.
So what do Bmobile and Digicel need to do to survive in 2018? They need to offer more than just a product or service. Now more than ever before, we are no longer simply purchasing a phone or a service. We are purchasing tools, investing into our own businesses and livelihood through technology. Smartphones and the internet are the gateways for business, learning, connecting throughout the world and need to be treated as such.
While Bmobile closed citing that 70% of activities store related were bill related, and now they are closing their stores to allow the retail partners handle everything. All I see is a missed opportunity to help bring the change needed from one of our providers to help educate the public on the new technological changes Trinidad & Tobago is undertaking.
Apple offers free workshops, paid tutorial subscriptions, and now they are teaching smartphone photography, coding, app building, etc. Can you imagine if Digicel or Bmobile decided to actually be a leader in the Caribbean tech landscape, and began ushering in the new wave with its very own learning centres? It’s not strange for a telecoms company to do this, Telus from Canada jumped on this idea of client education back in 2012.
Even if you are a retail partner, from Digicel or Bmobile, prices of phones are soaring to new heights, and customers are slowly getting hip to the idea of ordering devices online. If all your doing is selling a product or service, you run the same risks for closure as every other retailer worldwide. It really is time to innovate or die.
Mobile Experts are actually a thing. When purchasing a device, we no longer just buy blindly. We go online, check our favourite reviewers and hear what they have to say, but they can only guide us so far as their situations are different, pricing on devices are different, networks they are using their smartphones on are different.
We need more local experts but here in Trinidad & Tobago, our telecoms providers are more interested in letting their retail partners handle the retail aspect. In the vast majority of retail stores selling Digicel or Bmobile products, there really is no product training or even a real respect for mobile.
Most people working their simply know how to cash a Samsung, iPhone or Blu device and will never actually qualify you for what you need.
In closing, again, I personally feel that our service providers are not grasping what needs to be done to push forward real technological change in the Caribbean. They have the money, influence, and can build the infrastructure to make a serious change in our region. Not just by simply providing a service or a product. They can really make change by getting the Caribbean people on board with understanding the technology that is at their disposal, and understand why things like LTE, 200mbps, Fiber service, the New Note 8 are all such big deals.
Without it, the regions will still lag behind as the technology is not grasped and underutilized. More retail partners will start to close as people are no longer just interested in buying a mere product anymore. Digicel and Bmobile, if you are reading this. You guys are in the perfect positions to seriously impact change.
If only 30% of activities in your store are for things other than bill payments than I do not believe you guys are offering anything of value to the public. If you want people to be excited about the advancements in the networks, fibre, new smartphones, you got to do a lot more than just putting a price tag on a service. Innovate or die.
3rd party retailers will never be able to provide the next level experience that the technology needs to grow within the Caribbean region. The retail partners are focused on quick sales, and simply do not have the philosophy of providing the retail experience as a key factor for them. You see it in all their posts or ads, “Lowest Prices”. At some point, we no longer want the lowest price, but actual quality service, a proper retail experience and expertise.
For any retail partners of Digicel or Bmobile reading this, the days of selling a simple smartphone, case, service are dead. If you are not willing to offer more, you will lose the battle and the war to eBay/Amazon, just like Macy’s, Sears, Walmart and everyone else closing down hundreds of stores worldwide.