The Future Of Retail? This Isn’t It!

A vision of Wi-Fi-powered in-store app use that we just can't take seriously.

This idea of the "wired store" has been perpetuated for years, but without much evidence that consumers want it or that it would in any way improve customer experience or loyalty. The article included below is all too typical: The source quoted is a representative for a commercial Wi-Fi provider, so it's no surprise that he's shilling. It’s not even clear how in-store Wi-Fi would be useful to the retailer paying for it.

The scenario for checking in-store inventory doesn’t seem sensible in light of advancements in fulfillment, and what’s the point of hiding inventory for items the retailer expects to sell? It gets more bizarre. What’s the point of an augmented reality app in the sports section of a big-box store or the lingerie aisle of a boutique? Furthermore, why would you want to limit the buying experience to someone who is guilty of leaving their phone in the car? If we were to bet, we’d put our Bitcoins on the success of Kate Spade's in-store experience rather than the decidedly unrealistic scheme below. Via LuxuryDaily:

Having this [Wifi] connection can help retailers expand their aisles in-store by showing products that may not be out on the shelves. Consumers could also use the in-store Wi-Fi to find a specific product at another nearby store or online, if the product is not currently available at the store they are in. "[Wi-Fi] can expand what consumers are seeing in-store and it makes for an endless aisle," Mr. DeStasio said. "Consumers can see if it is in a different size or color, or go to a different store where they can actually go buy it." Customer service can be greatly increased by making sure a customer can locate what they want to purchase. This is especially important to luxury marketers since superior customer service is what distinguishes luxury retailers from mainstream retailers. "Embracing Wi-Fi in store allows the retailer to show customers more information than they would normally have about products," Dave Rodgerson, senior management consultant of retail strategy and change at IBM Canada, Toronto. "In any luxury store, the customer experience is one of the most important differentiators," he said. These experiences can also be further enhanced by other technologies such as augmented reality. "Augmented reality mobile applications can create a bridge between the physical world of the store and a digital customer experience," Mr. Rodgerson said.

Backtrack by reading our series about how Software Is Changing The Future Of Retail

[Image: Flickr user Windell Oskay]

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  • Roy Blumenfeld

    I've always wondered why this hasn't been utilized properly. You have the option to give an in-person presence, especially helping the tech-phobic people that are still scared of shopping online, and the flexibility to either take the product out of the store or have products they purchase in-store shipped to their homes instead (cutting down on bags/need for excess inventory). 

    I'm glad it is finally catching on! Even if this app is a complete failure. The idea will work eventually.

  • BarryCalms

    It's horrendously poor retailing to not have the item in stock when the customer wants to buy it. This is what todays very poor retailers should be working on.

    Customers don't get dressed, drive to town, pay to find a parking space, walk up and down a high street then find the store they want to discover the item is not in stock and has to be ordered and delivered to their home in the next few days. They want the item NOW!!! thats why they've made the effort to travel.

    Apps should focus on internal usage of the supply chain so that the customer never has to hear the words 'im sorry we're out of stock it might be in the next delivery"

  • Larry Ripley

     finally a consumer that understands that MY time is critical....and if I have done the above feat only to find you are out of stock trust me that will be the very very last time I roll my wheelchair through your doors.  Brick & Mortar are wondering what the allure is to my sitting on my handicapped arse in my home and shopping on-line is?  Its just that....I no longer have to expend the great amount of energy to get to your location/store only to find what I want isn't available, or its pricing matrix is not correct...blah blah blah....I will order it from Amazon.com and its on my front deck in 2 days with FREE shipping.....cheerio loves!!