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RIP: Modern retail spells the end of mediocre retail

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Modern retail as we know it is changing.

This is not 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 in. One thing is for sure, only the retailers that buck tradition will survive.

What traditional retailers are in need of is a shake up. An infusion of new ideas, because this 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 get 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. Just because a shopper might come into a store to see an item in real life before buying it online, that doesn’t have to be the end of the world anymore. If a shopper tries on an item at a department store, then buys that same item for less from a competitor, that certainly is a problem, but one to discuss another time.

Unified channels

Channels must work together to secure the sale. Pearson brings up great examples of employees offering small discounts if a shopper checks out then and there, compared to going online. Best Buy is one of his main examples of a traditional retailer that has been able to keep up with the times. Their sprawling brick and mortar shops have become an asset, instead of the liability many other similar 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 here, how are some retailers thriving while others seem to shrink in size and influence each day? Taking it back to the Warby Parker example, 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, pick up in-store, and, especially when a retailer is out of stock in-store, having that item delivered from a nearby fulfillment center. Blending channels keeps business from walking out the door. Beyond that, price parity and collaboration between teams is crucial. There’s eCommerce revenue and brick and mortar revenue, but when companies announce earnings, all of these numbers are working towards 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 back in to their stores. But it goes much further than that. Customer experience has always mattered, but today it must be more individualized to keep consumers’ attention.

Warby Parker is opening 25 more stores in the near future, piggy backing off the success they’ve had across channels. They’ll continue building sales in those stores, but also pull in new shoppers who are used to traditional optometry shops. Not to mention, they will also strengthen the bond they have with their online shoppers. Word of mouth and brand building opportunities are icing on the cake for them.

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 eCommerce 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.

 

Angelica Valentine
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August 29, 2017
Angelica Valentine

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