Brick and mortar retailers have a great advantage over eCommerce only retailers and they have not fully used this advantage because their focus has been on the purchase side of the equation rather than the consumer experience. Retailers must blend all channels into a shopping experience that provides opportunities for consumers to shop and purchase from any channel. Retailers focus on the ability to purchase from any channel and they must focus on the ability to shop from any channel. I think retailers must change the brick and mortar focus from a purchase channel to a shopping and social experience channel which provides the consumer with a showroom for merchandise and allow consumers to execute the purchase through the most convenient channel.
The objective of this strategy is to produce a virtual endless aisle in the brick and mortar store itself. There have been retailers that have provided this as a rudimentary type of service and now the retailer can take advantage of mobile and kiosk technology to expand and improve this experience. Many consumers want to feel and touch the product when shopping or want to see the product combinations together before purchasing combinations and the brick and mortar store provides this opportunity. In addition, the mall provides a venue for entertainment and socializing with friends and family that can round out the shopping experience in a way that cannot be accomplished through eCommerce outlets alone. Retailers must recognize this and provide multiple and most importantly, simplified methods for consumers to execute the purchase.
Retailers have introduced pieces of the solution and now must expand to deliver a robust purchase experience that meets the consumer’s needs. Some retailers provide an ‘order desk’ with a telephone that connects directly to their customer service call center to allow the consumer to place an order for products that may not be stocked in the store. Many retailers now provide a kiosk where the consumer can scan the product barcode to obtain a price. And many retailers provide internet access in stores for consumer mobile devices. These are all great offerings but they must be blended together to engage with the consumer to enhance the shopping experience and simplify the shopping experience.
Rather than providing simple kiosk to check price why not provide a consumer center kiosk that not only allows the consumer to check price but also allows the consumer to check store stock levels and then allows the consumer to place an eCommerce order at the kiosk to ship the product directly to their home or office or as a gift. Retailers also need to provide a method to simplify the store purchase to encourage spur of the moment purchases. Retailers can provide their store clerks with mobile devices that allow them to complete the consumer purchase on the floor rather. This would allow the limited number clerks to spend more time helping and interacting with consumers to encourage a purchase speeding up the purchase and reducing the wait time and long lines especially in busy seasons.
And now for the audience participation portion of the show…
ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors. How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumer's experience? Improving the consumer’s experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes. In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas. How can you support these continuously changing requirements?