When retail futurist Doug Stephens put the relatively new eBay Now service to the test in the first episode of his “The Future In Store” video series, he used his phone to order a baseball hat while sitting on a bench in New York City’s Madison Square Park. Forty-two minutes later, the hat was handed to him right there on that park bench.
During a recent Mindtree webinar on The Future of the Retail Store, Stephens used this anecdote to point out the fact that although we still think of “stores” as being physical, brick and mortar places, the concept of what a store is has, in reality, fundamentally changed. With virtually any purchase we might want to make available to us through our phones, the store is now in our pockets. It’s also in our televisions, our gaming consoles, and before too long it will also be in our refrigerators, in our cars, and so on. In other words, media is the store now.
So how can retailers adapt if their locations are no longer “the store”? Part of the answer lies in redefining what their physical spaces are for. As Stephens pointed out during the webinar, retailers need to stop thinking of stores as a place just for transactions and more as a place for experiences. Fill the space with interactive touchscreens, integrate social media throughout the aisles, and use augmented reality tools to make every aisle endless.
But retailers also need to turn the tables and use the new “store” (media) to their advantage. As I pointed out during the webinar, the number of touch points a consumer reaches in the purchase process these days has multiplied. It might start with a Google search, then browsing comparable products and sites online, going to Facebook for advice, reading reviews from their phone, and so on. At all of these touch points the consumer is creating a data trail – one that can be integrated to tell a story that helps retailers understand them.
Remarkable Retail Experiences
So while part of the solution is to make physical stores more fun (or less boring) to digital natives, the other part is to use data to properly reach them, and make their experiences personalized and memorable.
Consider these scenarios:
- A mother walks into a department store. Her son will soon need to switch from an infant car seat to a toddler booster seat. She gets a text from a customer service rep noting that there are several models of booster seats in stock, and he offers to meet when she’s ready and talk her through all the choices.
- A homeowner, whose basement was one of many that flooded in town after a massive storm, gets an email promotion from a retailer for discounts on water pumps, dehumidifiers and a free consultation for their home improvement services department.
- A young man, newly in love, walks into a department store a few days before Valentine’s Day. He gets a text the minute he steps into the store: “Cards in aisle 3. Chocolates in aisle 12. Perfume in aisle 8. Jewelry near the registers by at the front of the store. Text us back and a sales associate will be happy to come help you shop!”
If the ideas and possibilities presented above intrigue you, I would urge you watch a recording of the full webinar — because these ideas only scratch the surface of what was covered.