Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash

Retail solved: how all stores can succeed.

Whether your store is brick & mortar, online, or both — this is what you’ll need in the foreseeable future to thrive in this culture.

I think we’re at a new turning point in the sale of physical things to individuals. If we’re going to keep buying our own things (which could change) with money (same there) then the recent shifts in shopping methods will make new winners out of sellers who offer even better experiences.

Currently…

Over the last few years I’ve found that our shopping patterns have changed quite a bit. It hasn’t made shopping much easier or more enjoyable for me but I and many other people can avoid a lot more bad purchases. One pattern is: going to a physical store to try something out but go online to price check or buy.

I feel bad for using stores this way but they frequently don’t have the best prices or selection. Another pattern is starting online to get a sense of what’s out there before seeking it out in person.

Why do we do that?

People are increasingly compelled to span between both types of stores, regardless of where the final purchase is made. I think the reasons for that is also the answer to what needs to change with all shopping experiences—the answer that will put an end to the physical vs virtual store war.

The Reasons

Why go to physical stores:

  • I can see and interact with the real thing. Try it out, try it on, feel it, smell it, test it, mess with it.
  • I can ask salespeople all kinds of questions including helping me figure out what I’m looking for.
  • I can rapidly browse through many items — an entire store if the items are displayed well.
  • I can find something visually to learn what it’s called.

Why go to online stores:

  • I can see ratings, reviews, photos, videos, and samples from customers. I can sometimes even ask them questions.
  • I can quickly price check.
  • I can see full product info from the store and the manufacturer.
  • I can see every variation that’s available anywhere of a given product.
  • I can see product comparisons.
  • I can shop any time of the day or night, from anywhere.
  • I can get things delivered to me.

The best of both worlds

So what if we could take the best parts of both of them and cross-pollinate? Then it wouldn’t matter whether we’re trying to shop online or in person — we’d have most of the same tools wherever we are. Then it would just be either convenience vs tactile interaction that would determine whether you should shop one way or the other.

How could this work?

At the core both types of stores would need:

  • Reviews and salespeople. The reviews can be verified by salespeople, who can be kept honest by reviews. ☯️ #yinyang

Physical stores would need:

  • Product reviews, media, and answers.
  • Extended info, variations, and comparisons.
  • Flexible hours for 9–5ers.
  • Competitive pricing info.

Online stores would need:

  • Knowledgeable salespeople.
  • VR/AR browsing and item viewing.
  • Easier returning methods.

So there you have it, the answer to disruption is synergy. Checks and balances. Consistency of experience across diverse products.

Startups of the world, go forth and make this happen!