menu

Piers Fawkes: Retailers — Stop Making Bad, Real-World Web Sites

Piers Fawkes: Retailers — Stop Making Bad, Real-World Web Sites
Retail

Stores can't compete with services better delivered by the efficiencies of the web but should instead focus on the art of the human experience.

Piers Fawkes, PSFK
  • 21 april 2012

Earlier this week I was on stage at the Shopper Marketing Summit in Chicago as a keynote speaker. While I was introducing my talk about the Future of Retail, I spoke – as I usually do – about how while the findings of PSFK’s report on the subject suggests that technology can actually help create a more human experience in store, often electronics and systems suck the soul out of the shopping experience.

As I presented, an idea came to me — when retailers use technology to fight online shopping, they simply turn their stores into bad versions of the internet. Retailers all too frequently choose technology over humanity, efficiency over service and novelty over true refreshment.

I tend to start the Future of Retail talks with a couple of examples of technology ruining retail theater. First I speak about the ‘greeter’ hologram that shouts at shoppers as they enter a Wall Street branch of the pharmacy chain Duane Reade. I don’t know how much a virtual sales person costs, but I’m sure it’s a lot more than a real one does. It’s an example of retailers flight from having to deal with human beings — trying to buy service through technology rather than accomodate the modern realities of hiring, training and compensation.

The second example I give on stage is from an experience I had when I moved to our new offices on Bond Street. Like many small business owners, I went to IKEA for some of the furnishings! When I talk, I recount that as I arrived at the check-outs (with a trolley half full of things I needed and half-full of things I never knew I needed) I found a dozen cash-registers with the self-scanning option and just two that were staffed. Where were the lines of customers? All queuing up for the checkouts with human staff. I had over $1,500 worth of gear in my overflowing shopping cart and the last thing I wanted to do was unpack it all myself to scan. I wanted someone to help me. So I waited in line a long time and my positive IKEA experience evaporated.

What is happening is that to compete with the web, retailers think they have to create stores that operate like the web. The problem is that no-one is ever going to make such a killer experience in the real world. A store can’t be as hyper-efficient or as customer-data driven. The services provided by offline retailers can’t compete with any similar services that are found on an ecommerce site. It’s a losing battle and the inability to understand how to compete with the web is critically harming big-box and main-street retail.

Retailers need to stop making bad versions of websites in the real world and offer the humanity that the internet robot can’t compete with. Stores can’t always provide customers with services that are better delivered than those of the efficient web, but they should instead focus on the art of the human experience. They need to empower staff with tech, not replace them with tech. Tablets and other systems can support them in their day to day — but when staff can’t be present in a store they need to be able to be accessed virtually through the store — instantly.

There are other points of differentiation for offline retail — aesthetic and sensory experiences that can be just as important as staff — but there’s nothing as beautiful, understanding and ‘human’ as well-trained, motivated people.

Staff can make you feel welcome, staff can tell stories, staff can explain, staff can sympathize, staff can reassure you that it’s the right product — and staff can make you feel like a million dollars when you leave a store having bought a dress worth $100.

Retail
Trending

DIY Kit Lets You Build Your Own Wooden Bike, Boat Or Caravan

Design & Architecture
Culture Yesterday

Messaging Add-On Helps You Correct Your Friends’ Bad Grammar

An iMessage sticker pack will help you copyedit text messages

Automotive Yesterday

Mercedes-Benz Introduces A New Electric Mobility Brand

The separate entity aims to simplify the identification of Mercedes EV products to customers

Trending

Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Automotive

See All
Mobile Yesterday

Tinder’s New Feature Makes Swiping A Group Effort

The dating app wants to democratize its gestural interaction by buying in to the social polling trend pervasive among millennials

Related Expert

Alison Klayman

Filmmaking, Journalism

Syndicated Yesterday

Autonomous Garbage Drone Prevents Trash From Reaching Deep Ocean

The solar-powered WasteShark collects refuse closer to the source: the harbor

Automotive Yesterday

Aston Martin Reveals Its Own Luxury Powerboat

The sleek AM37 echoes styling elements from the British brand's sports cars

Advertising Yesterday

An Escort Website Fights Violence Against Sex Workers

The advocacy campaign from McCann aims uncover the human toll of the exploitative industry

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry
NEW

PSFK Op-Ed september 27, 2016

Modern Workplace Culture: No More Fat Cats Or Kissing Ass

Samar Birwadker, CEO & Co-Founder of Good & Co, on designing shared organizational values to optimize employee happiness and success

PSFK Labs september 29, 2016

The 10 Steps To Discover, Hire, Develop Your Next Leader

PSFK's Future of Work report outlines key steps in the employee development path to empower next-gen leaders

Culture Yesterday

LIFE Magazine Relaunches In Pure VR

The general interest periodical, which ceased publication in 2000, has turned into a portal for virtual reality content

Mobile Yesterday

Reorder This Detox Drink With A Simple Text Message

Dirty Lemon is streamlining its communication by letting customers place orders, ask product questions and request help exclusively through chat

Op-Ed Yesterday

The Future Of The American Workforce Requires Unbundling College Education

President of JetBlue Technology Ventures: developing corporate education programs for non-traditional students

Retail Yesterday

Gilt’s Pop-Up House Is The Kind Of Store You’ll Want To Live In

The New York City townhouse plays host to the latest in retail inspiration, curation, and lifestyle activation (and some libations, too)

PSFK LABS REPORT

Future Of Work
Cultivating The Next Generation Of Leaders
NEW

Mobile Yesterday

Registering To Vote Is Now Just A Text Away

A new bot aims to mobilize underrepresented groups this election season through SMS and Facebook Messenger

Africa Yesterday

Virtual Reality Game Gives Lessons About Emergency Birth Care

LIFE is a serious tool that takes advantage of new technology to help save lives

Luxury Yesterday

Shoe Repair Has Moved Onto Your Phone

Cobbler Concierge is an on-demand service to get your footwear fixed online

No search results found.