Do Physical Retail Stores Have Multiple Channels?
This idea of a single store as having multiple channels sort of hit me like a ton of bricks during a conversation with a 10 store retailer about digital technology being used in their stores more. More specifically we were discussing some of the new in-store technologies available to merchants, in particular the digital-enabled dressing rooms (i.e. — smart mirrors).
This prompted the following questions…
What does it mean when the actual physical store is broken up into many unique journeys? Are these now channels? If so, what does attribution look like in store? Which part of the store is responsible for each sale?
Those in the industry understand just how difficult the attribution of online dollars to channels has become, mostly due to the proliferation of channels and the multi-device to a single person world we now live in.
What about the real world? You know, those physical store locations people still frequent for the vast majority of their retail purchases?
Digital has not only crept into the store, it’s fundamentally changing how consumers interact with the physical shopping environment. It’s fragmenting stores into channels, and that’s both very cool and a little scary.
What’s more, digital is enabling a better shopping experience offline than we currently have online. Think about that for a second. Online, we (consumers) are effectively just buying, not necessarily shopping. Discovery and inspiration online are quite abysmal compared to their real world counter parts. Because…senses (smell, touch etc…)
But retail stores embedded with the right digital is actually providing for better sensorial experiences.
Which means we are entering a multi-channel physical world much the same way we’ve evolved into a hyper-multi channel digital world.
Which means we need to start thinking (at some point) about how our in-store channels influence customer journey and ultimately how we attribute sales to these in-store channels.
The more I think about what the future of retail might look like the more I find my mind (imagination) seeing a retail environment that uses the latest in digital advances to their fullest capabilities. When I think about the digital form of commerce, I don’t see the same thing.
Perhaps true virtual reality with some way to simulate senses is the answer at some point. But how far are we from a world where the real thing isn’t better than the virtual reality thing? How far are we from massive scale adoption of this type of tech?
The good news for retailers is that we are likely 5–10 or more years from this point. The bad news for retailers is that isn’t that far out.
Most merchants I encounter barely have a decent grasp on digital commerce, let alone digital influenced physical commerce.
What the hell is everyone going to do when we see another massive leap forward in technological advancement (i.e. — A/R, V/R)?