Technology to enhance shoppers’ in-store experience (hint: don’t bother!)

Recent reports of a tie-up between Adidas and Intel to enhance the shopping experience with technology are leaving me cold.

I think this is largely irrelevant, and a waste of money.

The best shopping experiences deal with store setup (merchandizing, architecture, fixtures design, lighting, soundscape, etc.), and with service (knowledgeable and personable staff in particular).

In business terms, this translates in a store’s sales per square meter, and sales per staff.

If the technology doesn’t increase those two metrics, it’s useless. From a brand’s perspective, you can add other metrics (such as future sales, for example to buyers who create an account and can later be touched by further marketing efforts). But retail has specific strengths which should be used by any in-store initiative.

The best retail experiences out there have no technology at all whatsoever (Ikea, Apple, Molton Brown, or fashion boutiques in city centers).

Technology is a glittering lure, tempting and very satisfying in marketing or boardroom presentations, but I’ve yet to see an example that has genuine impact on consumers and actually improves their shopping experience.

I’m a bit of a grumpy old man, but I firmly believe that knowing the right place of technology is very important.

That right place is backstage. A few examples:

  • awesome stock management (I can get what I want from this store, now or tomorrow at the latest)
  • a decent loyalty card system to ensure staff knows relevant information about the most valuable shoppers, enhancing the conversation
  • in-store shopper behavior analysis to optimize merchandizing and store organization
  • order online and pick up in store
  • strong training tools to ensure staff are totally fluent in the features and benefits of each product on offer
  • and obviously on suggesting and preparing the visit before it actually takes place (promotion, information)

All of this requires massive investment in infrastructure as well as people to run it, and that’s where the value is.

But don’t mess with the relationship between the shopper and the products, don’t mediate it with screens and gizmos, you’ll just degrade it. Picking up the product from a shelf and holding it in your hands, talking about it with a sales clerk, actually trying it on, this is the impregnable pinnacle of the shopping experience, an intense, personal and meaningful moment, and we are gravely mistaken if we think we can enhance it with consumer-facing information technology, which is a substitute.

This entry was posted in Commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.