How do you want to shop?
There was an old retail paradigm (that still rings true): get them to the store. It’s the last mile. This is where the transaction happens. E-commerce – as we have known it to date – has been somewhat siloed in this paradigm. Many retailers still treat their online store as if it’s just another store. There are so many issues and challenges in getting to the point of excellence with e-commerce, that many companies don’t even know where to begin (and we’re talking about the small, medium and large retailers here). It’s everything from merchandising and pricing down to the postal service and dealing with returns. If it feels like e-commerce is something akin to Pandora’s Box, you’re not alone in you feelings.
The customer… at the middle.
And yet, if you sit down with traditional retailers and even the ones that sell exclusively online, you will see slide after slide in corporate presentations of this consumer now, firmly, placed in the middle of the experience. Everything centers around them and they are all-knowing. This part is true: never before in the history of business have consumers been this much further ahead of the brands in terms of communications, marketing and connectivity. Brands (and retail, in particular) continue to struggle to keep pace. Watching some of the major retailers work the "buy it online, pick it up in the store model" gives a glimpse of hope that retail operations won’t become anything more than a place where people go "showrooming" (this is when you go to a store to look, but buy everything online either via your mobile device or when you get home).
Great brands create great experiences.
There is no doubt that the biggest opportunity that retailers have is to surprise and delight with a great in-store experience. Shopping is still a very social act and people love congregating around busy centers of commerce to experience life together. What brands needs to get their heads around is that the customer of today has already, fundamentally, changed. Not just because they are connected and mobile, but because they can now shop your brand twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and in a myriad of ways.
Setting up roadblocks.
The new retail experience is simple to explain: let them shop your brand wherever and whenever they want. The new retail experience is hard to execute on: we’re talking about has challenges that range from technology and infrastructure (both back-end and front-end) to real estate and human resources. Human beings have a very difficult time with change – especially change that is backed up with decades of "this is how it has been." It’s amazing to think that we live in such uncertain financial times on one hand and – on the other hand – how hard retailers often make it for customers to give them their money. I’m talking about willing customers who just want to shop the brand – whether it’s on their mobile phone or in-store.
What retail needs is a more tethered system. A symbiotic technology that can pull together all of their physical locations with their inventory that marries their loyalty programs to their ecommerce platforms. What this really means is moving the digital channel out of a vertical and making it the horizontal that runs across the organization. It won’t happen any time soon, but it’s going to happen sooner or later. The convergence of ecommerce and physical retail buying is about to converge. We’re almost at that point in time where you can walk into a store and shop it like you always have, but then be able to have a complimentary ecommerce experience to go along with it. This could mean the selling of virtual goods and it could also mean your ability to buy styles not available at the physical location. This could mean that it happens on an in-store kiosk like a screen or right from the palm of your smartphone-holding hand.
There’s a new retail experience. Consumers are just waiting for the retailers to catch up.
Good points Mitch. What you describe above has been coined ‘Omni-Channel Retailing’, which as defined in wikipedia, is a seamless approach to the consumer experience through ALL channels; store, web, mobile, etc. As you astutely point out, this convergence won’t happen any time soon. All retailers are struggling with this! Everyone is trying to figure it out. Retailers understand the significance of this paradigm shift, but have not figured out how to adapt.
Agreed Mitch … I am based out of Manila at the moment … Philippines has to be at least 10 years behind the US at the moment … ecommerce stores barely exist here!
Hi Mitch. Do you think the expectation of easy purchase and handling will move beyond traditional retail and into financial and insurance services? We work with clients who are curious but very sceptic about online sales to ever kick off. Any thoughts?
As I read this post I couldn’t help but think a new retail experience finally presents the opportunity for retailers to convince consumers to buy at full price.
You mentioned providing accessibility to physical and virtual inventory and linking in to loyalty programs – that’s clearly a value proposition for the consumer – particularly during a time in which their inbox’s are being flooded with coupon codes. I say that, because in the near future, value, may not be an equation that is exclusive to quality and price.
Value is becoming an equation that is inclusive of experience. Note to retailers: what Mitch is describing may result in customers sharing more of their wallet with you, but it can also convince them to buy your merchandise without feeling the need to get a rush off the notion that they are getting a bargain on price.
Hi Mitch, Reminds me of a pitch I saw at the Alpha Exchange Innovation Campaign. triMirrors did a pitch for their product which really brings clothes to life when you’re shopping online. Check out their You Tube video on how it works. I thought it was an amazing concept.
You’ve described the perfect scenario for shoppers. I do hope this new retail experience will happen in the near future. It will be very convenient for customers and it will be a new revolution that will transcend time and space, because physical limits will not be a deterrent in the consumer’s shopping options and alternatives. But I understand the hesitation from both e-commerce and traditional businesses. Change as always comes with it a lot of re-organizations not limited to physical ones, but also, and most importantly, a paradigm shift from all familiar practices. I just hope that business owners realize that the change will not just benefit consumers, but ultimately, business earnings as well.
Well, I think some commerce already have that. Mark Spencer (i think was there) in edinburgh ( everywhere for sure) you have a “Microsoft surface table like” where you can visit their website, scan the bar code of any article and buy directly from the website (card payment device include) and like you say you can buy the same jacket you just scanned but online and on different colour or size. Everything from the same physical shop
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