Modern retail as we know it is changing. And no, this isn’t another inflammatory article harping on the recent and increasing failures in retail. Instead, let’s focus on the exciting new direction modern retail is going. One thing is for sure: Only the retailers that buck tradition will survive
What traditional retailers need is a shakeup—an infusion of new ideas, because today’s climate is no longer retail as usual. Relative newcomers like Warby Parker are showing how modern retail is done. It’s channel-agnostic and customer-centric. Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker, recently told PBS, “We don’t think retail’s dead. We think mediocre retail is dead.”
The saying “if we build it, they will come” no longer applies. Retailers must focus on the experience side, since shoppers are bombarded with options, online and offline. Sure, big box and established retailers may have a name recognition leg-up, but it stops there. Consumers don’t want to wander a giant store, with no one in sight to help them. They want attentive employees who understand that they shop across channels.
Showrooming won’t shake modern retail
Bryan Pearson of Forbes recently brought up the showrooming trend that used to have retailers shaking in their boots. He opined that for retailers who have adapted to the modern customer journey, showrooming is no longer a problem. A shopper who comes into a store to see an item in person before buying it online isn’t the end of the world. (If a shopper tries on an item of clothing at a department store and later buys that same item for less from a competitor, that certainly is a problem—but we will discuss that another time.)
Channels must work together to secure the sale. Pearson brings up some great examples of employees offering small discounts for shoppers who check out immediately instead of going online. Best Buy is a good example of a traditional retailer that has been able to keep up with the times. Their sprawling brick-and-mortar shops have become an asset rather than the liability many other retailers have found their physical locations to be. Best Buy has their Geek Squad and knowledgeable employees to help out in-store.
So what’s the difference? How are some retailers thriving while others seem to shrink in size and influence by the day?
Going back to Warby Parker, Gilboa told PBS, “We like to say that we’re experience-focused, but medium-agnostic. We don’t care if customers are engaging with us through a physical store, online, through their phones, through channels like Twitter or Instagram. We just try to make things as easy as possible, regardless of the medium.”
Channels must be unified once and for all. After all, shoppers have embraced buy online, pickup in-store, and, especially when a retailer is out of stock in-store, having items delivered from a nearby fulfillment center. Blending channels keeps customers from walking out the door. Beyond that, price parity and collaboration between teams is crucial. There’s e-commerce revenue and brick-and-mortar revenue, but when companies announce earnings, all of these numbers work toward the same goal.
The era of customer experience
Some retailers use beacons in conjunction with their mobile apps to deliver relevant offers and welcome loyal customers to their stores. But the strategy must go further than that. Customer experience has always mattered, but today it must be individualized to keep consumers’ attention.
Warby Parker is opening 25 more stores in the near future, piggybacking off the success they’ve had across channels. They’ll continue building sales in those stores while also drawing in new shoppers who are used to traditional optometry shops. In addition, they will also strengthen their bond with online shoppers. Word of mouth and brand-building opportunities are the icing on the cake.
Succeeding in modern retail means giving shoppers options. Walmart understands this, as they continue to swoop up retailers like ModCloth and Jet.com, which have mastered the online market. Warby Parker also gets this marriage between channels: “We just want to offer the best experience possible, and let consumers choose how to engage with us.”
It’s certainly an interesting time in retail, as Walmart infuses its business with the best e-commerce talent and Amazon doubles down on brick-and-mortar with its Whole Foods takeover. These retail giants prove that modern retail will happen wherever consumers want it to happen, and the winners will be there to complete the transaction.
For more insight on today’s evolving retail industry, see The Customer Experience Genome—And What It Can Do For Retailers.