Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prescient retail

What if there were a store that knew everything you wanted before you got there, and all of it was waiting for your arrival, ready to go?

It sounds like some parallel universe you may not have yet experienced, but it may well be in a future just up the road.

I first witnessed a stage 1 example of this kind of “no-shop shopping” at Bed Bath and Beyond, which allows customers to select and purchase merchandise in any of its stores, but then has everything ready at any other Bed Bath store anywhere in the country. It’s a service near and dear to the hearts of parents of college students, allowing them to make all the in situ summer selections of sheets, wastebaskets, pots, pans, and bath mats for the far-away dorm room or college apartment—ready and waiting for the start of the fall semester. In this example, the shopper still needs to shop a store, but is able to do so in a more leisurely way, when product availability is high, tension low, and move-in deadlines don’t loom—and simply shift the pick-up to another time and place.

A more recent entry is mygofer.com, a new venture from Sears Holdings Corporation, which allows customers to shop online for groceries, electronics, apparel and more, and then pick up the designated items at a My Gofer store the same day—presumably a defunct Sears or Kmart location, now re-purposed as the bridge between the online and bricks and mortar worlds. This service also offers a delivery option and guarantees product availability.

Interestingly, these hybrids acknowledge an important positive of the traditional retail experience—in one case, the customer desire to see and touch the merchandise, and in the other, the need for immediate gratification. At the same time, they both endeavor to minimize what consumers don’t want—crowded aisles, vapid sales associates, out-of-stocks, and long waits at the checkout.

Inherent in these new constructs, however, is the sad element of partly throwing in the towel on some negatives of the in-store experience, with the retailer now at least tacitly admitting it may no longer be able to heal all of thyself.
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Facebook Google Bookmark

No comments:

Post a Comment