This week, we’re taking a dive into the conversation around retail technology. What strategies are e-commerce sites employing to develop targeted, personalized experiences in store? How can business who are struggling in store deploy digital strategies to make the most of their retail spaces?
Jan 22: “Retail Technology and Marketing Trends on the Rise for 2018,” Forbes
Writer Veronika Sonsev recaps her experience at the National Retail Federation Big Show, and offers her thoughts on 2018’s biggest retail trends. Every trend she includes centers around how data, analytics, and streamlined digital features will figure into the retail marketplace this year. She quotes Terry Lundgren, Executive Chairman at Macy’s, saying “Customers will always want the option of coming into the store to try on jeans instead of buying three different sizes online.” But, retailers must unite their online experience with their physical presence, through services such as “buy online, pick up in store.”
The Takeaway: The big talk at the NRF Big Show was about integrating technology into retail strategies in innovative ways that use the best features of both avenues.
Jan 29: “The 6 Most Surprising Things About the New Amazon Go (No Cash Registers) Convenience Store,” Inc.
Writer Minda Zetlin writes about her experience at the newly opened Amazon Go and what it spells for the future of brick and mortar retail. She disagrees with the “store of the future” discourse, citing Amazon’s difficulties in opening the store to begin with. She writes, “Amazon Go’s opening was delayed for a about a year as Amazon struggled to get the technology just right. That will give you some idea of the difficulty inherent in creating a store like this one and why I don’t think others will follow suit in a big hurry.” Similarly, she notes that the store does not pose the threat to jobs that concerned observers claim. Instead, the store staffs just as many employees, but they work the shelves or make food.
The Takeaway: Amazon Go certainly leads the vanguard in retail tech, but it does not necessarily foretell the demise of the conventional store or retail industry.
Kim Davis, Editor-in-Chief of DMN responds to commentary about the appeal of retail tech. He argues that the convenience, price comparison, low friction checkout, and inventory analysis are important, but not the central factor when it comes to retail technology. Instead, he suggests that retail is first and foremost about the experience of buying as an identity signal. Davis writes, “It’s not just about speed and convenience; it’s about the method of shopping as a lifestyle statement.” While the ease with which we can now send customers through the conversion funnel plays a major role, more critical will be the way in which retail tech makes customers feel about their experience.
The Takeaway: All of the practical and convenience factors associated with retail tech are great, but the true winners will be those that use technology as an experience enhancement and lifestyle statement.
Writer Ann-Marie Alcántara covers the opening of Casper and Everlane store locations, which is notable because both business started strictly in e-commerce. She quotes Everlane CEO, who says, “A brand that has 500 stores no longer makes sense in today’s world .. But having 20 to 50 key locations that help bring an expression of the brand to life is very relevant for the customer and we see people line up and come into the space and see it and part of it.” The trend, Alcántara notes, is creating brick and mortar stores as interactive brand identity experiences, rather than directly focused on purchase and conversion.
The Takeaway: While brick and mortar businesses must contend with quickly developing digital technologies, e-commerce brands are expanding into brick and mortar and taking their digital mentality with them.
A Little Point of View
Amazon Go has got brick and mortar based retailers reeling, but storefronts can survive and thrive if they integrate the best things about digital shopping into their physical spaces. As each of these writers note, shopping is not just about convenience. In fact, many businesses find — through testing — that adding low-friction upsells at the “add to cart” stage actually slows down conversion and lowers revenue. What retail tech is proving is that the way we market to customers online can and must transfer to store fronts. In fact, many landmark e-commerce only business are developing their “IRL” presences. These companies are recognizing the customer experience includes brick and mortar — where it make business sense. Technology has made convenience a given, so retail tech must change focus and move toward promoting brand identity.