“Are we too product focused?” was an intriguing question asked during our Connected Store webinar back in November. You’d think that stores were all about products. That products were what mattered most: where they were sourced, how they were procured, supplied, presented and, ultimately, priced and sold. But the question was a good one because it got to the heart of what retail stores need to do in a world where online seems to threaten them.
Planet Retail conducted research in 14 countries amongst 63,000 consumers, and their findings reveal that people love to use technology to shop: they use it to check out what’s available and where, and compare prices. They like to get offers via their phone, or to connect with other shoppers to share reviews. It’s a constant flow of information that both online and offline retailers are working hard to influence. But, the focus is far too rigid: it’s all about the products themselves.
When psychologists study how we shop, and consume – and they spend a lot of time studying our habits; after all, we spend a lot of time buying stuff! – they usually come to the same conclusions: it’s not the products that count, it’s the reasons we buy them. One anthropologist concluded that shopping was about love. Even buying crispbread for the family was, at its heart, all about caring for the family. It didn’t matter what brand the crispbread were, the point was feeding your loved ones. A primal instinct. Look at all the Christmas ads on TV: they’re not about products, but about sharing and caring and love for hearth and home. The products are secondary.
The problem for pureplay retailers is that the screen – be it TV, tablet or phone – is a cold, removed experience. It’s basically a list of products dressed up with pictures and colorful designs. It’s just stuff. The psychologists will tell you that any normal human being, when faced with an array of products to choose from will suffer a mini-crisis in their brains: ‘the paradox of choice.’ We say we want choice, but we don’t want a big choice. We want guidance to make decisions about what to buy. And that’s why the retail store is so important. It’s the comfort of knowing that if we stand in front of a shelf full of stuff and we just can’t decide, we can ask someone to help us.
That’s why 90% of us still go to real shops to buy the things we want
And, even though online sales will grow by 108% over the next five years, we’ll keep going to stores. So, the imperative is to use digital technology to make those stores a better experience. Everything from digital signage to kiosks; magic mirrors; connected terminals to check availability and prices; and staff with devices that enables them to give the best advice and service.
That’s what the Connected Store can do at the front-end. Behind the scenes – from administration to buying and procurement through to supply chain and logistics – digital can smooth the path of products to the shelves instore.
It’s important to focus on people. Use digital to help them get what they want when they want it. But don’t let the products get in the way!