There’s a lot of buzz in industry circles these days about the impact of “showrooming” on brick-and-mortar brands. Witness the excellent overview by Ann Zimmerman in the April 11 US edition of the Wall Street Journal,“Can Retailers Halt ‘Showrooming?’”
Ms. Zimmerman notes the anti-showrooming efforts of such retailers as Target and Walmart, and the challenge of meeting-and-beating pure play pricing and assortment breadth.
And, she also gets to the core of the issue: It’s not about competition between stores and pure play websites. It’s about competition between the websites of brick-and-mortar brands, and the websites of the pure plays.
We live in the era of Google, an era of web-based search, an era where just about any detail of just about anything can be found on the Internet. Studies of recent shopper behavior show a steady climb in the number of US shoppers who begin their purchase journey with online research. Nearly two-thirds of US adults do so regularly.
The Internet is the front door to all retail brands these days – not just the pure plays. It’s where shoppers are initially won or lost – and where store traffic is increasingly generated.
I happened to pause last week at a pile of newspapers in my father’s house in Atlanta.
The reason: A feature article about Cisco on the front page of the March 25th business section of the Journal-Constitution.
The article was interesting. But best of all, it jumped from the front page to the inside pages of the section… which is why, on page D2, I stumbled across one of the best, common sense advisory articles on retail technology I’ve read in a long time.
OK, retail technologists. It’s the new year. Time for resolutions.
Grab the pencil (so you can revise, not erase) and the notepad, plug in the earbuds, and settle into your thinking chair. And take the first step in getting rid of those old bad habits.
Resolve to address those big, ugly, long-standing structural weaknesses that weigh you down like a ball and chain. Weaknesses like the non-integrated, multiple databases residing within the legacy applications. Like the oft taken-for-granted time-to-capability performance (caused by a legacy store architecture) that measures all-store roll-outs in years and gets a constant eyeroll and deep sigh from the SVP of Ops.
Resolve to look that ancient, deeply-customized application that you prop each year with more people and money squarely in the eye.
Resolve to lose weight. Heavy, power-sucking, PO-abusing CPU weight. Virtualize the data centers and start the process of removing CPUs (and all the break-fix maintenance costs) from the store. Thin is in. So is operational simplicity.
Resolve to demand value from your vendors – which, as we all know, is different from the lowest price. Demand that they help you solve specific business problems. Demand that they bring their best strategists and thinkers to the table.
Resolve to ignore all the one-off shiny technologies du jour. Easier said than done, especially with NRF around the corner, the marketing SVP sputtering that “everyone else is doing it,” and the CEO remarking that his nephew had one at Christmas. (Mobility! Smartphone apps! Tablets! Interactive kiosks! Ooooh!)
Resolve to embrace BYOD, and push it forward. Your corporate leaders of tomorrow won’t necessarily thank you. It’s just that they’ll be willing to work for you instead of the competition.
Resolve to toss out of the room any consultant or vendor sales rep who talks about “customer experience” without detailed considerations of your segment, your price point, your brand promise, and the overall customer journey by persona – all the way through service and loyalty. Resolve to ask them how many times they’ve visited your stores.