By now, I’m sure many of you have seen or at least heard about the full page advert from 20+ of Australia’s biggest retailers. They’re attempting to focus the spotlight on the tax aspect of the movement to the online environment but is this really the issue?

Is the consumer 100% focused on price? And if so, have many of the retailers listed on the advert been responsible for this price war mentality?

As marketers, we see this issue daily. Price appears to be affixed by many retailers as the only answer to increased patronage and as a solution to increased turnover. Whether the thinking extends into increased profitability is often questionable.

It’s no secret that buyers look online for bargains. In fact we’ve had many discussions with business in terms of their online strategy and how pricing is perceived online.

We all ‘think’ it’s the way everyone is going but I’d like to challenge that thinking for a moment…

Are we so engrossed in the digital age that we no longer care about anything other than price? Do we not value our own time in searching for the best price? Does the online world offer us enough information to make informed decisions? Do we always get what we expect online? Is the trust factor now at a level where buying online is not as risky as it was 5 years ago? Do you actually care who you purchase something from?

So many questions…yet so few answers.

I really wonder if consumers don’t actually care about the human aspect. The interaction between two people, where one is seeking a solution and the other in a position to be able to provide one. Or have we lost all our real-tailers?

Instead of entering into a price war, perhaps these retailers could add the ‘real’ back into the art of shopping.

Customer service is so rare these days that it can really be used as a differential. Remember the days when you went to the butcher because he had the best meat and could advise you on the ultimate cut for your particular dinner plans? This was before you quickly grabbed the only thing left on some bulk supermarket shelf.

And since when did we all become experts on the most leading technology? Wouldn’t it be a nice change to walk into a store and have someone with real knowledge and a desire to provide you with a product that meets your needs rather than just flogging you the sale item out of the catalogue?

We quickly forget that price is only ever relative to value. If we perceive that an item is only worth ‘X’ then of course we are going to look for places to purchase that item for ‘X’. So when your sole advertising campaign is based on price and nothing else, then you can’t expect the consumer to be driven by any other mechanism.

So if online can provide that item at less than ‘X’…you only have yourself to blame.

It’s time that leading retailers got real again. They need to be just that – real and true leaders.

Offer true differentials to the market. Convince them of the real features and benefits that make you the company they want to purchase from. Develop human levels of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and don’t just leave it up to a piece of software.

We all look to the industry leaders for ways and means to improve our businesses. These companies are supposed to be the innovators and the entrepreneurs that we all aspire to be. Those 20+ retailers have certainly proved that they don’t deserve to be treated with that level of respect and a quick Google of the issue will tell the story in terms of ‘real’ consumer feedback – and it’s not positive!

So when considering your approach to 2011, don’t forget the human aspect and get real with your customers. Service is still king and online should only ever be your supporting act.