Retail Isn’t Broken. Stop buying 2.0

New Media. Retail 2.0. Digital In-Store. There seems to be a million spins on why big box retailers need to completely uproot their strategy to stay relevant. I , for one, don’t think retail is broken at all.

There is far too much hype around the “digital revolution”. People are stricken with fear over some mythical club in the sky that everyone needs to join otherwise they’ll be left in the darkness. No profits. No people. The truth is that the digital revolution is much more about the apparatus than a shift in shopping behavior. Since the late 1800’s people have been trying to find ways of saving money on the products they consume. Technology has just made this quest a bit easier.

“But Tom, aren’t consumers dramatically shifting their buying to the internet?”

It depends on the category! Most online purchases are made through traditional retailer’s websites. This number grows by about 10% a year. The shift in buying from a website is really about successful multichannel strategies that are allowing consumers to consume wherever they are, inside the brick-and-mortar or not. Think about the online experience today when it comes to virtual retailers, like Alibaba. What online does best is compete on price and convenience. That doesn’t create new value. It’s a race to the bottom…the lowest cost and fastest fulfillment.

The only way to really build a relationship is face-to-face. That’s human nature. This gets to the essence of what retail stores have to be about. Relationships and trust. If you’re being sold internet in-store, iBeacon coupon’ing or interrupting that face-to-face interaction, someone is selling you snake oil. Giving your patrons options, a surprising experience, or a new way of completing the transaction is great; but the idea of brick-and-mortar locations filled with lemming’s pulling out their phones and mindlessly roaming a path you’ve set to based on placement of your shiny new piece of technology is more a fantasy than reality. Life is not a game of Lemmings or Minecraft.

I’m also amazed at the indifference put on talent, experience, and professionalism when it comes to content. Contempt for the second-rate is comical when the belief is that the best content comes from anyone with a phone and the time it takes them to write “#EpicFail”. There is no free alternative to professional photography, non-linear video editing, or graphics design. The reason Instagram posts aren’t
aren’t plastered onto cereal boxes is people don’t buy Chex when the picture is poorly lit, ill framed, and shot at 640 x 480!

As a retailer you should have more respect for the 18 to 25 year-olds, AKA millennials. Their heads won’t explode if you stop patronizing them for a moment and tell them what the hell’s going on in their lives and world around them. You are NOT that out of touch. While the typical 21-year-old definitely knows more about his tablet than you do, he doesn’t necessarily want to pull it out when he’s in the market for a new belt! The traditional content, you know and love, will still work great! Embed it in a loosely interactive experience or animate it and I can promise he’ll be more mindful of the sale in aisle 3. And for those shaking their heads, let me be the first to warn you; If that new iBeacon doesn’t work buttery smooth on the phone he holds so dear to his heart, he’ll probably giggle and ignore whatever you were trying to say anyway.

You’ve seen and read it a thousand times. Content, placement, investment and good planning. Digital in-store and Omnichannel strategies aren’t contingent on the newest technologies. Most of the best strategies make use of technology that is now tried, true and inexpensive. The fact is, in the 2010’s people have changed. They do want to feel more pampered. They are looking for ways of getting in and out smoother. They ARE looking to be elated at something fresh and new! But as Apple has shown us, this comes from the simple and elegant. As Disney has shown us, it stems from a smile or moment of awe. People stare at the fountains in Las Vegas…but it’s just water.

Sometimes in the desert, that’s all you need.

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