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Much Ado About The Store


The state of the store is constantly being talked about nowadays, ever since someone floated the “retail apocalypse” theory back in 2016. The head scratcher in that whole bruhaha was that it was about retail, not about retailers or stores. If the retail industry was going to see the business equivalent of The Four Horsemen charging at them, it would have to been because consumers had stopped shopping, and that clearly wasn’t the case, even in the depths of the Great Recession. Instead, what consumers started doing was shopping smarter, armed with their always-connected mobile technology, and retailers had to change to keep up. Why is that thought so revolutionary? Things change all the time….

The industry seems to have gotten over that particular fear, as is clearly shown in the results of RSR’s latest benchmark on the state of the store (The Retail Store 2018: From Apocalypse To Renaissance, August 2018). Now, there’s a new bogeyman to distract retailers from the real work that needs to be done to integrate the store into the total shopping journey. And that bogeyman is (of course!) Amazon, and its plan to open 3000 of its Amazon Go! cashierless stores in the next few years (according to Bloomberg, citing “unnamed sources”).

The idea of a cashierless store seems to have caught a tailwind; for example a venture funded startup called Standard Cognition announced plans to open a cashierless store in San Francisco called the Standard Market. The September 16 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle highlighted that Standard Cognition “…has raised $11.2 million in venture capital and formed partnerships with four retails chains around the world. This first market is a prototype to showcase the technology and work on the bugs. The ambitious goal is to add the tech in 100 stores a day (each day!) by 2020.”

Like the Amazon Go! store, the Standard Market will use cameras and AI engines to identify what shoppers pick for purchase in the store, but unlike Amazon Go!, which also uses scales and a patented shelf technology, the Standard Market goes all in with cameras and AI.

The Chronicle article states that the Standard Market “…relies exclusively on the ceiling cameras and artificial intelligence software to figure out what you are buying. The cameras document shoppers’ movements, speed, stride length and gaze. The store knows when I glance at a poster and for how long. It knows if I slowed down, grabbed a chocolate bar and put it back. It knows if my body is facing the dried mangoes but my face is set on the popcorn. And it knows (or is trying to know) when I am planning to steal.”

I can almost hear privacy advocates revving up their lawsuit engines for this one (someone needs to tell the folks at Standard Cognition that “California ranked second in this year’s ‘Judicial Hellholes’ report by the American Tort Reform Foundation”, according to the Orange County Register).

RSR’s Latest Benchmark ON the State Of The Store: A Different Story

As revealed in our 2018 study on the store, retailers have a very different view of the role of the store. They don’t see the store as something akin to a walk-in vending machine, but as a place that is one part shopping, one part fun, and one part social. Sixty-seven percent of overperformers (“Retail Winners”, in RSR parlance) believe that the store is their primary face to the customer now, and 56% believe that that will be the same in two years. Two-thirds of Retail Winners think that the store experience should be “fun”, and further define “fun” in a modern context – with targeted and relevant digital content delivered right into consumers’ hands. And 65% of Winners think that employees will engage more with customers, not less.

These are the technologies for the next generation store that at least one-half of Winners say are “very valuable”: Customer mobile app checkout, Customer “instant” checkout (e.g. Amazon Go), Interactive displays, Location-aware interactive marketing, Customer wi-fi portals.

Winners aren’t holding back when it comes to store employees and instore processes, either. Here’s what at least 50% of Winners think is “very valuable” to their stores going forward: In-store fulfillment solutions, Mobile-based store dashboards, Mobile POS, POS software refresh or modernization, In-store real-time cross channel customer order visibility, Employee scheduling and task management capabilities, Mobile-based store alerts, In-store real-time cross channel inventory visibility.

So Winners certainly aren’t looking to get out of stores. But they are thinking about the store as a vital part of a digitall enabled shopping experience that is more personalized than the “one size fits all” model of yore.

Retail Is So Much More Than Hassle-free Convenience

One of the biggest reasons that I have stayed close to retail as long as I have is because it’s fundamentally a happy business; after all, people don’t buy what they don’t want or need. And while (according to a study by Duke University) 45% of the decisions we make every day are driven by habit, that leaves 55% that are driven by the conscious pursuit of something.

And that something is… happiness! In 2014, none other than the e-magazine Psychology Today featured a piece that highlighted why we shop: “We think of shopping in terms of what we buy. But the reason we spend money goes beyond just acquiring things. Shopping, like almost everything we do, is the pursuit of pleasure. It is part of our daily search for happiness.”

Retailers, and Retail Winners in particular, don’t buy in to all the noise about consumers’ supposed distaste for shopping in a store. And when all is said and done, there’s still that fundamental “can’t get around it” statistic that makes it easy for them to look past all the pundits, analysts, and “experts” that prophesize impending doom. Here it is, the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Commerce:

Yes, that’s right: more than 90% of all sales (in the U.S.) still get rung up in the store.

READ THE REPORT: To find out more about how Retail Winners compare with their less-performing competition, go to to download the full report or the e-Book quick-read version. Our research is always free to you, and we look forward to your feedback!

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Articles & Opinions September 25, 2018
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