Will 2017 be the year retailers start making their stores relevant again?
Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Retail Paradox, RSR Research’s weekly analysis on emerging issues facing retailers, presented here for discussion.
Normally at this time of year I’m thinking futuristic things. What will be the cool and exciting things that will happen in the year to come? When it comes to retail, I want to see the future of shopping — all the glory of fully-realized virtual reality and sensors and algorithms that sense and respond to my every need — before I even realize I need it.
But we’ve got a long way to go to get there, and the store is not just a yellow light on the warning panel, it’s starting to turn over to red.
Here’s how the conversation usually goes.
Retailer: My stores are in trouble. We need to do something to make them healthy again.
Me: Your stores are obsolete. The shopping process you built your stores to serve no longer exists except as an exception, rather than a rule.
Retailer: Well, I can only afford to make incremental changes in stores. So what kind of technology can I buy that will make my stores suddenly relevant again?
Me: One technology investment is not enough, and it won’t make any difference if you don’t understand how that investment is supposed to help stores reshape the store experience.
The store as it is designed today increasingly plays a smaller and smaller role in the shopper journey. One technology investment, one training video is not going to change that underlying reality.
I see more and more retailers recognizing this fundamental gap between what stores are and what they need to be. I think 2017 will be the year of that tipping point — when more retailers acknowledge that stores as they exist today will not be the physical selling assets of tomorrow, and they cannot be made into that selling asset of tomorrow with merely cosmetic changes.
This is a dangerous time for store-based retail. As I’ve said before, stores won’t die. I am positive that there are retailers who will figure out the future of the store, but that future store will look only in some ways like it does today.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see that retailers are recognizing the degree of change and investment necessary to support shifts in the shopper journey? Do you largely agree that incremental investments won’t be enough to keep stores relevant in coming years?