You walk in to your favorite fashion retail store and you’re welcomed by a retail floor assistant. They repeatedly greet you with a scripted engagement every three mins until you checkout or leave. And that’s when consumer retail hell really begins.

Store attendant: “Will that be all for you?”

Me: “Yes”

SA: “Email?”

Me: “Ugh…web…@….”

SA: “Address?”

Me: “NO!”

SA: “Okay, will that be credit or debit?”

Me: “DEBIT.”

SA: “Okay, please swipe when the keypad lights up.”

Me: (mumble)

Machine: [buzzing noise]

SA: “Oh sir, please insert the card. You have a security chip thing.”

Me: “(under breath) F***”

Machine: [Waits 45 seconds]

SA: “Okay sir, if you take 10 minutes and fill out this questionaire at the bottom of your receipt, you’ll have a chance to win a $75 shopping spree.”

From start to finish, this in-store checkout process takes 4–5 minutes. A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) for retailers is checkout efficiency, a nearly four minute checkout process may not hurt conversion rates, per se. But it may affect repeat business (decreased LTV) and customer satisfaction (lower Net Promoter Score) can lead loyal customers to dismiss the retailer.

As one-click checkouts become more frequent on eCommerce platforms, in-store buying — once the standard — becomes more and more subpar of an experience. All in the name of big data.

Once upon a time, an in-store experience set the standard for all other brand channels. In the past 3–5 years, this has been slowed by a new standard of thorough, pesky data collection. The checkout processes at J. Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, Finish Line, Vineyard Vines, and other nationally prominent retail brands are entirely uniform. Whether or not it is effective is an entirely different argument.

The objectives of a brick and mortar’s in-store data:

  1. They want to make advertising promotions more personal.
  2. They want to prioritize for profits by reminding you of new lines and offers, early in the season. How? Identify mark-downs and out-of-stocks quickly and easily.
  3. They want to track data-driven lifestyle trends and changes.
  4. Recognize the top 5 moving products, colors, prints & graphics, retailers, and brands in their total addressable market (TAM).
  5. Fine tune pricing strategy based on the viability of industry competitors.

Perhaps it helps the bottom line. But it’s also growing the dependency on eCommerce-like data and the increase in consumer value hasn’t materialized for the vendors.


In the past, here are the five reasons that eCommerce consumer’s failed to convert. Due to new in-store data collection policies, the bold reasons (2 & 4) are now brick and mortar deficiencies:

  1. 41% — Hidden charges at checkout (this can include shipping pricing).
  2. 29% — Having to register before the purchase.
  3. 11% — Unclear delivery details.
  4. 10% — Lengthy checkout process.
  5. Phone number not provided on website (customer service disconnects).

Most eCommerce shops have successfully addressed deficiencies one through five, while the brick and mortar experience has continue to add barriers to the sale.

For large brands like J. Crew and The Gap, doubling down on their much-improved eCommerce presence would make more sense.

By reinvesting in the further-improvement of brand experience and UI for tablet and mobile users, J. Crew could bridge the gap between desktop and mobile conversion. Here is a three-pronged alternative to J.Crew’s existing in-store data strategy:

A J. Crew-themed editorial mobile app with Stripe integration for ease of purchase. Produce more content like this for a native app. Own editorial by producing premium content that you’d find elsewhere inside publications like Mr. Porter, build an organic audience around it.

Using a Medium-like measure, merit-based discounts can be rewarded to customers who read articles from start to finish. Products can be purchased, in-store, by scanning the app at the register, saving the user time by setting aside petty data-collection processes. This is as simple as building an in-app, Apple Pay / Android Pay integration.

For app subscribers (credit card saved), desktop notifications can be used to display short-term, members-only sales that last for 5–10 minutes. This can replace brochures that no one reads anymore. These purchases can be made by:

  1. clicking the notification
  2. adding to cart after product display is rendered. This will engage your J. Crew mobile app and the notification will give you 90 seconds to act.
  3. authorizing your mobile app to make the purchase at a short run, members only, incentivized price.

A brand experience like this would promote the company in a tasteful way. It would lead to more brick and mortar interaction and it would shift data collection from in-store to in-app, where it rightfully belongs.

If you like this kind of thing, please recommend this. And check out 2pml.com, home to my daily letter about these kinds of things.