BrainTrust Query: The Future of Retail – The Destination is You
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Prophet Consulting blog.
Since the time of the Roman Empire, retail as a concept has been about destinations. Whether a small specialty shop, a department store or a website, retail has always meant going somewhere to get something.
This is about to radically change. Increasingly it will be the products that seek out consumers and, in the process, render consumers the destination.
As we move through our day, opportunities to make purchases will present themselves in a completely synchronous and contextual way. The “rules” about where we can find the things that we need will be challenged as “anything/anywhere” shopping becomes the expectation and, ultimately, the norm.
Here are four recent examples of how the death of the destination is playing out in retail right now.
Home Plus QR Code Shopping
Recently Tesco’s Korean grocery chain, Home Plus, installed innovative subway signage that allows busy commuters to order groceries while they wait for their train. Consumers simply scan the quick response (QR) codes of the items they want and pay for their order using their mobile device. The order is then shipped, at their convenience, to their home.
The 3rd Ward design incubator recently made news with its ShopBox installation in Brooklyn’s Dekalb market. The “store,” a recycled, retrofitted and completely unmanned steel shipping container, allows shoppers to browse products through storefront-like windows and then use an order-by-text system to complete a purchase. All items are then shipped directly to their home.
Very soon you may be riding the bus to work when you get a mobile Facebook update from a friend that says they’ve just read a great book. Without giving it a great deal of thought, you click on the accompanying book title in their update and, within a few seconds, download a copy of the same book to your tablet and be well into chapter one by the time you arrive at work. Music, books and movies are the starting point, but other products and services can’t be far behind.
If you like the shoes that Tina Fey is wearing on 30 Rock, pause the show, select the shoes in the size you need and buy them by waving at your television. Then hit play to continue watching the show. While you’re at it, say goodbye to the 30-second (or even the 10-second) commercial. Internet TV will blur the lines between surfing and viewing and allow for contextual product placement within taped and even live programming.
What about destination retail?
To say that these and other technologies will eradicate the need for physical retail would be overly sensational and highly unlikely. It isn’t, however, an exaggeration to say that our expectations of physical stores will change dramatically. More and more we will expect these destinations to deliver unique and memorable experiences that we simply can’t anywhere else — digitally or otherwise.
The ultimatum that these technologies and concepts present, however, is that consumers will increasingly choose businesses that offer either anywhere convenience or only-here experiences. Everything in the middle may as well be invisible.
Discussion Questions: Do you agree that successful retail is becoming a matter of offering either “anywhere convenience” or “only-here” experiences? How may these technologies change consumer expectations around physical stores?