Internet Retail Experience of Tomorrow
Five Keys to the e-Store of the Future
The store of the future will allow consumers to shop the
way they want to shop — when they want, where they want
and how they want in a relevant, personalized way. Today,
retailers cannot deliver on this vision due to legacy retail
systems that are not nimble enough to keep up with the
speed at which consumer technologies are evolving. The
store of the future will eliminate this gap and achieve the
“multichannel nirvana” long sought by retailers.
To get there, retailers will need to do five things:
1) Allow Relevant and Real-time to Become the Norms
Personalization is critical to the future of the store since shoppers
will increasingly come to expect retailers to offer them
what they want, not what the retailer wants. However, for the
shopping experience to be truly personalized, it needs to be
real-time and it needs to be relevant.
Specifically, real-time and relevant information about products, pricing, transaction history, inventory availability and status, loyalty program info and social graph and profile data must become the norm for both shoppers and in-store associates. Real-time means serving up data that is up to the second — not data that is a day old or even a few minutes old. Relevant means providing information that is intelligently filtered and served up in the context of where the shopper is in the cycle of interacting with the retailer’s brand.
2) Eliminate Channel Silos and Build on a Unified Technology Stack
Knocking down the walls that exist across different channels,
particularly the one that exists between the two main systems in the retail ecosystem that drive commerce operations —
legacy in-store systems and e-commerce — will be critical in
building the store of the future. Organizational challenges are
also a major obstacle, but are largely symptomatic of the
technology divide. The store of the future will operate with
truly integrated channels as well as be built on a unified
technology stack, bringing together back-end and consumer-
The e-commerce platform, with its natural connection to the online consumer who is increasingly shopping in physical stores, should become a natural platform for building this unified commerce management vision.
3) Build Intelligence into the System
The store of the future will be nimble and intelligent — able
to adapt to shopper behavior with precision and speed. Retailers
will need to build this concept into their retail operations,
allowing for each channel to be optimized based on
what the shopper is doing at the moment and expected to do
in the future. Brick and mortar stores will be able to eliminate
products that are not selling and replace them with those that
are selling well or expected to sell well based on store intelligence
— at the individual store level, and across stores.
They will also be able to allocate inventory smartly, making sure shelves are filled and customers are happy, as well as conduct promotions based on the new real-time and relevant norm. Online channels will be equally as intelligent and nimble, fulfilling shopper needs “in channel” as well as tying the online world to the physical world in the store.
4) Revolutionize the Consumer Experience in the Store
The key enabler of the store of the future is the engaging consumer experiences that retailers can offer in the store. Retailers not only need to ensure they are building engaging consumer experiences, but are revolutionizing the store with engaging consumer experiences — the new consumer expects it. Every retailer will have a mobile-optimized website, which will be an essential buying tool of shoppers. Retailers will need to find ways to utilize this key shopping tool effectively, such as for consumer-driven comparison shopping, experiential shopping such as the use of augmented reality, quicker checkout — including self-checkout — and for providing location-based offers and better customer service.
Retailers will also need to provide devices in the store, such as tablet kiosks, mobile point of sale (mPOS) devices, tablet clienteling and digital signage. These devices should solve real shopper challenges in innovative new ways, such as avoiding stock-outs by offering an “endless aisle” of in-store and online inventory, cutting down on the amount of time shoppers have to wait for in-store help, processing returns and refunds no matter where or how the product was originally purchased, and providing more intimate and personal one-on-one customer service between sales associates and shoppers.
5) Manage the Consumer Experience Across Digital and In-person Touch Points
The revolutionized consumer experience in the store will
require brand consistency across digital and in-person touch
points for the store of the future to succeed. With real-time,
relevant data and integrated channels on a unified technology
stack, management of the digital consumer experience
will become more seamless and realistic. The in-store digital
touch points — the POS system, sales associate mobile devices,
and in-store consumer devices — should serve up
consistent experiences to those found on the brand’s online
sites, providing better customer service and reinforcing
The in-person touch points or shopping experience should be equally as consistent and powerful. Sales associates should be trained on the latest digital consumer experiences, ensuring they understand the shopper’s point of view, and understand how it integrates with store operations and store policies. The store of the future will constantly manage the integrated consumer experience across digital and in-store touch points.
The Future is Now
The store of the future is not years away. The gap between retailer
system readiness and consumer expectation are already
being addressed by retailers like Apple, Nordstrom, House of
Fraser, Tesco, Barnes and Noble, and others who are demonstrating
today what the store of the future will look like. These
retailers are focused on store systems that optimize existing
brick and mortar stores, but also extend the store beyond its
walls, allowing consumers to shop the way they want to shop:
when they want, where they want, how they want in a relevant,
About the Author: Gary Lombardo manages mobile, multichannel and social commerce product marketing for Demandware.