Been reading a lot of predictions about what’s ahead for retail and retail technology for 2018.
Some state the obvious. Others — wisely — sniff out long-gestating trends that will force C-level consideration and IT investment in the year ahead.
Let’s discuss one of the latter.
This year we’ll begin to see the new store
… And I’m not talking about Amazon Go.
Let’s be clear: this is not — I repeat, not — another screed about the demise of brick and mortar. This year’s ballyhoo about “Retail Armageddon” over-states and misstates the reality of a rapidly evolving industry.
And evolving — at an ever-accelerating speed — it is. In today’s Darwinian retail world, the brick-and-mortar asset is poised either for extinction or soon to blossom into a new, thriving species.
In 2018 stores will increasingly be exposed as either short-armed, lumbering, and starving in a new climate, or — depending upon the brand — more upright and stronger than ever before.
Who’s going to win? I’d argue it’s those who grok the following:
- The shopper’s purchase-selection inspiration is now happening — a majority of the time — outside the store. This insight was first shared with me months ago by Jonathan Luster, Lowe’s creative and wise innovator — and now I see increased proof of Jonathan’s January 2017 hypothesis.
Yes, non-store inspiration springs from oft-visited commerce websites. But wise retailers are also looking at non-commerce sites — where recipes are found and boards are made and an Everest of visual images points to trends without words.
How can you tie your brand to non-commerce influencers? And how will you connect non-commerce content to your stores.
Tomorrow’s shoppers expect the physical to resemble the digital
Past research from Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group made clear that, the higher the digital use, the higher the expectations for the store. The benchmark for acceptable is now Facebook. Amazon. Netflix. And Google.
In speed and ease of transaction. In availability of product. In transparency of pricing. In access to information.
If you wish to welcome digital natives to your brick and mortar assets — in today’s world of FANG — your store needs to become...
“a living, breathing web-site.”
The store is now a node on a network of influence, commerce, payment, and fulfillment
The fact that the decision journey begins online is not news. What’s important today is that she can choose what’s best for her (Easiest? Fastest? Cheapest?) at every stage of the purchasing process. Browse via the smartphone while waiting to pick up the kids? Pay via the Amazon Prime account? Pick up in store? Your choice, my dear.
Of course this requires retailers to implement new store capabilities.
But not just the unified commerce holy trinity of extended aisle, click ‘n collect, and ship from store.
On today’s list must also be easy, no-wait payment. And increasingly, cross-journey influence management. That’s defined as right content to the right screen (among the ten of daily life) at the right time — linking home and mobile to what is increasingly not a store-based point not of decision, but of one of affirmation and confirmation.
The store will be both bigger and closer
This is a great concept from Joshua Xiang, Suning’s brilliant lead for research and innovation.
Bigger stores will be the destination where shoppers fully immerse themselves in an aspirational brand promise. It’s the brand writ large; retailers will operate a few of these per major market.
If it’s fashion, it’s a store as a runway, with accessories and advice and social-personal shopping. If it’s consumer electronics, it’s a store with maker fairs and on-site concerts and try-and-buy classes. If it’s grocery, it’s artisanal foods and cooking classes. In all cases, it’s about unique activities, product and usage expertise, and community — enthusiasts coming together to explore the best.
Closer stores are all about location — because proximity to shoppers will make or break the P&L of unified commerce. Thus, “closer” stores will be needed in the midst of primary residential areas. Close enough to deliver the last mile efficiently, even within 15 minute windows. Large enough to be in stock on key SKU’s — and small enough to afford the rent — especially in expensive urban areas.
Four thoughts. To where the retail store is evolving…faster than ever before.