I just finished the 54-page 2014 Accenture Holiday Shopping Survey; and while I’m still in a state of ‘stat-overwhelm,’ I’m also left with a nagging thought. With our culture’s unceasing need to simplify things (abbreviation-nation syndrome), we may be losing sight of the obvious. E-commerce and the relative newbie, mobile electronic retailing, combined have become the greatest destabilizing forces for retailers in a century. Emblematic of this is our culture’s tradition for creating nicknames for any major new phenomenon.
First showrooming arrived, the moniker given to some of the 200 million or so smartphone-toting customers who began deploying their devices in store. Shoppers price-checked the retailer, which more often than not resulted in an abrupt exit to buy online or at a competitor. This new practice also revealed inconsistencies between the retailer’s in-store pricing and that of their own websites which caused a corporate conundrum. Showrooming’s roommate is the more recent webrooming, a tech-term that describes browsing online and then going into a store to make a purchase.
Accenture predicts that 71% of consumers plan to indulge in this behavior this holiday season.
Fixating on these new behaviors only masks the more fundamental changes going on in retail: Internet price-transparency and the warp-speed creation and adaptation of technology to leverage it. The traditonal evolutionary retail industry has been undermined by “tech-tempo” change. These warp-speed changes require dismantling decades old corporate silos, which has been challenging. I also believe the “rooming” retail-speak may be symptomic of “forest from the trees” thinking.
We know the convergence of e-commerce and the smartphone have conspired to change everything — and we’ve only just begun (thank you Carpenters). We shouldn’t focus on the fragmented behaviors that are an outgrowth of rapid change. Instead, we need to begin to anticipate techs’ probable impact, and integrate it more efficiently into the new norms of shopping.
It’s undeniable that:
- Growth in e-commerce will continue to outpace in-store sales.
- Shoppers still want an in-store experience that is in-sync with great e-commerce platforms.
- The choice of “point of sale” is dynamic and constantly changing.
- Online sales preferences vary based on psychographics.
And to further complicate matters:
- Desktop web formats are typically not designed for mobile devices,
- Tablet and smartphone purchases are growing, but desktop conversion rates remain higher than mobile.
- i-Beacons, Near Field Communications (NFC) and other tech assists are poised to create more disruption.
- Retailers that can intelligently incorporate the new tech to improve the in-store experience will prosper.
As a trend forecaster I see this next wave of technology integration to be the major savior of the in-store experience. It has the capacity to complement everything that has happened over the past 15 years. The effective applications of i-beacons, NFC, and other new tech have the potential to create an enriched two-way conversation between the customer and the brand. This will lead to dynamic pricing and the elusive “market of one” nirvana that has been sought by all.
All of this reinforces the notion that the customer thinks first about the brand and secondly about the channel. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the brand to execute across all channels and touchpoints. A laser-like focus on a holistic, omnichannel strategy is essential to deliver a great customer experience. Also watch out for the next “rooming” fixation; I know it’s coming.