RSR Research: Romancing the Store
Commentary by Nikki Baird, Managing Partner, Retail Systems Research
a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of an article
from Retail Paradox, Retail Systems Research’s weekly analysis
on emerging issues facing retailers.
At a special meeting of the Cross-Channel
Retail Consortium held before the Shop.org event, one question that was
raised drew a surprising answer from the retail participants: Is it true that
you see the store experience falling behind now or is your focus on making
the online experience more like the store?
Almost universally the participants
responded that the store is by far the better experience. The bigger surprise
was that the retail participants at the meeting were all from e-commerce, though
one person had actually landed the role coming from the store side of his business.
And the revelation came even though many of the retailers who were in the room
were those I had personally experienced poor customer service with — everything
from selling floors littered with product, being completely ignored, to being
told “I can’t help you
[find that in another store]” when I know they can.
But then I realized
that these people — passionate about the retailers they work for — weren’t
really talking about the actual store experience;
they were talking about the ideal store experience.
So, while it is true
that the “ideal” store experience can’t be
matched in a quality customer interaction — and there are probably hundreds
or thousands of those ideal interactions happening every day — what I wonder
is, how many interactions are happening that are less than ideal?
the product information on the website is always consistently reliable. How
about getting even half as much good information out of a store employee or
even consistent information from one store employee to another? And last time
I checked, the website does not get trashed during the holidays.
While I appreciate
that every retailer is always striving to provide the best store experience
out there, I am today sounding a note of caution. The assumption has long been
that the store experience is better than the online experience. I don’t think
you can make that assumption any longer. The web has better information, much
more information, greater odds of hitting a consistent (and higher) level of
service and, depending on the time of year, it may actually look better and
be easier to shop than your store. It’s dangerous to romanticize the store experience
because it takes so much more and so much longer to fix a store experience than
it does to fix an online experience.
If you’re not thinking about how online assets
can improve the store experience now, then you’re going to be behind the curve
— way behind.
Discussion Questions: Is the online shopping experience catching up to the
in-store shopping experience? What do brick & mortar stores have to do to
maintain their edge over online shopping?