We’re in such a great time period right now in terms of retail customer experience both online and in store. There are retailers, brands and providers who are doing great and those who are doing not so great. I don’t think good customer service is exclusive to either arena, e-commerce or physical store; some are still in the before column and some in the after column. Ultimately consumers just assume the retailer has all their info, will match prices, provide accurate decision making information, and provide products and services we expect. E-commerce in general has a way to go with user experience and customer service. There’s never been any doubt of technical capabilities but now we must infuse human factors and human behavior into the e-commerce realm.
Less is certainly more. Retailers are now curators, that’s their whole reason for existing. Customer service, thoughtful curation and instant gratification. Otherwise consumers have the world at their disposal online. Mass assortment in one category isn’t necessary in store, but I will say mass assortment in terms of categories can be a unique differentiator. Capture consumers that need something ASAP so that drives them to the retail store, then satisfy their need by having at least one of whatever thing it is they need. Walmart does this well -- e.g. open 24 hours so when you absolutely need a marine battery at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning (true story).
As others have said, buy online pick up in store is just starting out, so I’m not worried about the adoption rates. Retailers are experimenting. Consumers are testing. I’ve seen and hear positive things about the concept for grocery shopping. As a grocery shopper myself, I see the appeal in having my shopping done for me. I don’t need to go up and down aisles to pick out repeated commodity items. Brand decisions can happen online when I’m filling out my order. That being said I still like to be able to impulse buy some things, this can happen online or in store if the right pickup options are available (e.g. if I don’t wait in the parking lot, do I go into the store to get my produce, meat and seasonal or impulse items).
One other comment, I don’t think people need to see the produce if they are ordering online as mentioned in the article. Consumers will trust the retailer to deliver quality ingredients, and if not they’ll let the retailer know or shop elsewhere. Focus technology elsewhere.
As a consumer I don't have the time to download and peruse an app for every store I go in to. It's bad enough my wallet and keychain contain several loyalty cards. These days I simply just give them my phone number because that's easier than a loyalty card. Getting back to apps, Starbucks is the only retail app I use, and that is because I can pay with it and look up what music is playing. I believe my wife may use a Target app for coupons. Beyond that, our phones have too many apps as it is. And if I only go to J.C. Penney or PetSmart once a month, why should I waste real estate on my phone with their apps? So it's really a real estate question too, right?
We use predictive heat mapping as a retail design tool. Heat mapping helps us focus on what we want the consumer experience to be. One thing to keep in mind is that you don't want every spot to be hot or cold or everything neutral. Set up your retail experience for flow and provide moments where people can dwell, as well as transition and grab & go opportunities. It's okay to have "cold spots" in your store. Just because no one is standing in front of something doesn't mean it can't benefit the overall experience. If you chase heat mapping without an overall strategy you'll spin your wheels and waste your time. Heat mapping, both predictive and actual, is one of many tools to use in retail design. Great heads up. Thanks.