Preamble: Retail defines our lifestyle and shapes our culture – and vice-versa.
…on one hand, the purchase-process is evolving, it’s definitely and significantly different compared to the purchase-process of 10 years ago; accordingly, the sales-process needs to change too.
…on the other hand, many retailers are typically laggards in new technology adoption cycles, they are exceedingly conservative and absolutely reactionary – the rule is: “In Retail, the future comes slowly”.
That’s a problem, because shoppers won’t wait for retailers to catch up (e.g. adopt omni-channel integration, offer valuable Mobile Apps, etc.)
Fancy an example? UPC scanning… …yes, I’m talking about barcodes!
Barcodes were invented in 1952 and their earliest commercial use was more or less in 1966.
The first item scanned in a retail store was a pack of Wrigley chewing-gum in a Marsh’s supermarket in Troy, Ohio.
June 26, 1974 (…no less than 22 years after barcodes were invented…!!)
Fortunately in the last few years things are changing, and a mutually productive and beneficial love affair between dye-in-the-wool merchants and digital technologists is making things very exciting in the retail world…!
…talking about love, I’m in love with an idea, a quite simple idea, really, but one that has amazing and tangible effects when put into motion: I believe in the “Store-associate driven shopping-experience”.
I think of a “Connected store-associate”, a well trained associate armed with her Mobile POS solution capable of delivering a great mobile experience when engaging a customer on the shop-floor – Mobile technologies help associates fulfilling the role of trusted advisors/experts.
A Mobile POS solution (…possibly coupled to in-store Digital Signage, why not?) allows Store-associates to stand side-by-side with customers, showing them multiple product options, accessories and frequently purchased add-ons – expanding cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.
…traditionally, the store has always been at the beginning AND in the middle AND at the end of the customer journey. Today it can be at the beginning AND/OR in the middle AND/OR at the end… …and at times the store is not even part of the customer journey!
What is not in-store (that is, OFFLINE), is ONLINE… …to tell the truth, the customer journey now is mainly ONLINE; in other words, as ecommerce (ONLINE) is booming, traditional brick-and-mortar stores (OFFLINE) are losing their exclusive role of distribution-points for goods.
By the way, the winners in a eventual “retail pissing contest” between OFFLINE and ONLINE are… …are those that don’t enter the contest!
Remember: OFFLINE+ONLINE=omni-channel integration=…what consumers expect
…the creation of an exceptional in-store shopping experience is imperative!
Retailers need to turn their physical stores into fantastic, social and thrilling settings, with new levels of involvement, relationship and value; stores are to be transformed into a new type of destination that replicates the charm and attractiveness of a disco… …or maybe of an art gallery? …or both?
Another analogy: retailer need to treat Retail as Media, curating their merchandise every month (…or every week…?), like a magazine would with its content.
Brick-and-mortar stores offer a shopping experience that cannot be replicated ONLINE because it is material, sensorial and experiential – that’s the OFFLINE Value Added Proposal!!