In the last 15 years, we have seen amazing technological developments become part of our shopping experience: mobile shopping, electronic payment, and voice search are just a few innovations that are shaping e-commerce today. When innovations are combined with media headlines such as “2019 Retail Apocalypse Continues” or “Analysts expect 6,200 stores to close in 2019” it would seem clear that retailers need to align to the e-commerce strategy as soon as possible! But the economic reality has confused many brands. On one hand: 85% of retail dollars are spent inside of a store environment. On the other hand: 87% of shoppers begin their journey online before visiting a store. The sales performance suggests the store is the priority, yet the customer journey suggests e-commerce is the focus. In many organizations, this discussion is adversarial and designed to pick a winner and a loser. When this happens, there is organizational misalignment to the needs of the consumer. Shoppers are using the constant consumption of technology to shape their omnichannel expectations. Today’s shopper wants the store experience to be an extension of the e-commerce experience. This is how the extension should continue to evolve:
ENTRY POINT TO THE BRAND: E-commerce provides brands with the platform to take a stance, share their story, and create a stimulating brand senses experience - one that will determine whether a new customer walks into the physical location. While producing a great opportunity for engagement, the stakes have never been higher: brands either move into the consideration set or out of the consideration set based upon short exposure to the online experience. Two brands that provide a nice ecommerce entry: Patagonia’s ecommerce captures the brand’s ethos while Harry’s produces a “clean” mobile experience with an easy check-out process.
INCREASE POP-UP SHOPS: Non-permanent locations service flexibility. Mobile POS is more prevalent than cash registers in a pop-up shop. Stock rooms are minimal, so items are likely to be shipped to your home providing a similar experience as e-commerce provides. There is great creative flexibility in the aesthetics of the pop-up shop. These are all elements that tie back to a strong e-commerce experience.
CONTINUED EVOLUTION OF TECHNOLOGY: E-commerce, retail, and technology will move faster tomorrow than today. The rate of advancement is rapidly changing, along with consumer expectations. This puts two areas of technology at the forefront. The first is the user experience (UX) through mobile improvements. Mobile devices are more convenient, but users are less committed – conversion tends to lag behind traditional desktop methods. The second is the strength of search engine optimization (SEO), as brands have to create easy access to products and position themselves above the competitive set.
E-commerce improvements across all of these areas will force greater change inside of the store environment. The true differentiator will be the retailers that are able to create a consistent e-commerce experience that leads to a physical store visit and then back to the e-commerce platform. The obligation of retailers is to tell a consistent story across the store & e-commerce platforms. Those who listen to the consumer will create a store environment that is informed by e-commerce patterns. Those who do not will understand the headline “Retail Apocalypse.”