I stopped shopping at Toys "R" Us in the 1990s due to the unnecessary long lines and the cashier asking for my phone number at the checkout in an assertive manner. The toy selection and bike selection was great; it was the point-of-sale where Toys "R" Us failed, and I believe anyone who learns from TRU's mistakes will thrive.
A sale is a sale. A cannibalized sale is still greater than a lost sale to a competitor. GameStop sells used games alongside new games and Best Buy sells refurbished electronics and appliances next to new items. If retailers believe they have to maintain an image offering only shiny and new products, they may be out of touch with the discount bargain-hunter consumerism going on for the past 15 years.
Starbucks has allowed dogs on their patio for years and many customers use the Starbucks mobile order while on the patio to be notified and quickly pick up their order. Cat cafés are usually designed around cats' natural ability to stay at a distance or disappear and show up when they seek interaction.
Kids in the 21st century do not play with plastic toys anymore. Kids grow up nowadays on mobile phones, mobile apps and tablets. There is nothing management can do. It's time for Toys "R" Us to join Borders Books and RadioShack in the afterlife.
I noticed Chicago was not on the list -- the only store in the U.S. where this concept would actually work is at the Marshall Field's store on State Street. The Chicago Macy's store has a subway-connected basement level and more square footage underutilized -- that the planners missed Chicago is incredible.
My overall advice regarding AI is to first understand it takes real intelligence to create artificial intelligence. Meaning you have to know your retail operation processes, data and decision workflows before you can teach a machine. No consultant firm or third party can come in and tell you this information, you have to know your business first.
Know there is a different between augmented intelligence AI and artificial intelligence AI. Augmented intelligence helps your workforce while artificial intelligence can replace your workforce with in-store chatbots and voice recognition over the consumer mobile device and perform fulfillment. Make sure when someone speaks of AI you know which version of AI they are speaking of.
I recently went to Walmart to buy a pair of tube socks. Almost 100 percent of the socks had a perforated hole in the package and one pair of socks were taken out. Not one or two, all of them. The same with underwear, just three in a five-pack with a hole in the package.
Walmart and likely other stores have a bigger-picture retail theft problem they need to address.
I cannot see how these robots are able to work faster than a human sorter. The grid layout is basically a primitive navigation design, and one also has to consider traffic. Package sorting similar to UPS or FedEx to bins by human sorters can easily outperform this process.
As someone who is very expert-level in blockchain technology, blockchain is very disruptive to retailing in a positive way. There are projects that are live right now and blockchain is not a far-off technology. It is actually easy if you cut through the hype.
The process of blockchain is (a) write transaction to "unconfirmed" ledger (b) verify transaction and (c) write verified transaction to "confirmed" ledger for distribution. Each party has a distributed ledger built with a "blockchain" method that will fail if modified or tampered with.
The advantage of blockchain in retailing is multiple retailers can now share datasets versus using an enterprise data system -- this is the most disruptive use case. For example, retailers can use a "shared" loyalty program to track on a blockchain distributed ledger versus create their own loyalty program. Retailers can use their own "shared" coupon distribution and verification system on a blockchain distributed ledger. And one more -- Retailers can share BOPIS and commercial freight on a shared blockchain distributed ledger.
There are several variations of blockchain not discussed (vault-based, ledger-based) and levels of permissions (permissioned, public) to realized the landscape and potential of blockchain technology in retailing.
What I'm hearing appears to be borrowed from a recent book called "The Platform Economy" and applied to retailing. Amazon is a platform. It allows merchants to sell, warehouse and distribute on their platform. There are home-based entrepreneurs that purchase items on clearance from a retailer like Walmart and sell on the Amazon platform for profit. I get what she is saying; retailing can longer be about merely selling products but establishing a platform for products, customers and distributors to participate upon.
There is an economic benefit in the return opportunity that should be considered. Malls and Main Street town centers accommodating third-party return centers basically created customers with some extra money in their pocket or incoming credit to their account to immediately go shop and find something else. Perfect capture and conversion opportunities not being leveraged to transition an e-commerce customer to a brick-and-mortar customer.
The showroom/BOPIS approach may have some wings with the multi-brand retail concept, with multiple retailers/brands using the same showroom space under a multi-brand licensed space operator. Great way to multiple brands to share the risk and establish a footprint in areas to test the waters before a full commitment to establishing a stand-alone storefront.
As someone who worked on QR Code use cases when they became mainstream in Japan in 2009, up to projects throughout China right now, I'm a little concerned at the dismissals of QR technology in American forums. It make no sense where 1D barcodes are widely used right now from airline tickets to tracking shipping to assert 2D codes such as QR code will not take off in retailing. The problem is, many Americans are looking at the wrong use cases for QR codes.
QR codes are cheap and disruptive, no hardware NFC, IC chip or biometric or even cash handling can compete against the cost of displaying a QR code on a screen for a customer to scan and check out.
CVS's decision to stop carrying tobacco and effort to purchase Aetna insurance is an indicator and writing on the wall. More and more doctors are advising their patients on diet management and what foods to eat. CVS and Walgreens are fighting to become the go-to place for diabetes and other health/wellness care. These activities will eventually crawl into the purchasing decisions at grocery stores.
There is really one factor -- the rise and mass adoption of Bitcoin during the year created consumer confidence to take profits and go out and spend. It is not fair to discount or dismiss the role Bitcoin mass adoption played in 2017.