We’re already seeing these forces play out with the dominance of e-commerce companies like Amazon. Big-box stores are scrambling to change how they approach and provide products and services to consumers to compete and stay relevant. What’s more, much of a future consumer’s product needs are becoming anticipated and automated, moving towards a friction-free experience. This is beyond e-commerce; it’s ‘personal commerce’ that anticipates, reacts and satisfies consumer demand, often before the demand has fully materialised. For example, products like Nespresso are already well on the way to becoming fully automated in terms of consumer fulfilment. Innovative Nespresso brewers can track usage and place automatic orders based on minimum personal inventory levels, so that a user never runs out. Nespresso parent Nestlé is aggressively pursuing direct-to-consumer models across many parts of its portfolio.
So this fundamental shift in how we shop begs the question: if our products come to us when we need them, do we still need to go and get them?
This is the question that cuts to the heart of every retail brand’s relationship with its consumers going forward. And it’s not just about stores vs. eCommerce. The entire shopping process will change in ways that no one will be able to predict. From branding and marketing to customer service and beyond, the purchase funnel itself will be forever altered. The battle for relevancy in the consumer’s mind will become intense as retailers, brands and third-party players battle for orders.
No doubt about it, shopping behaviour is changing from a world where consumers go to stores to get products, to one where products come to consumers. In fact, many things are changing along with our shopping habits, which is why my business partner, John Andrews (a total retail geek) and I (a total relationship geek) are writing a new book: Retail Relevancy.
Our goal in writing this book is to explore how brands and retailers can successfully navigate the shift in shopper behaviour that is happening right now. Granted, physical stores aren’t going away tomorrow. However, the fundamental role of a retailer is morphing from physical location to a service that fits the product needs of a consumer whenever and wherever he/she chooses. These new technologies are creating a real challenge for today’s retailers.
This isn’t science fiction, folks – it’s happening right now. It’s exciting, it’s thrilling, and it’s scary as hell! But stay calm… When Retail Relevancy is published you’ll know the secrets to staying ahead of the curve and creating brand value in the post-physical retail environment that’s just around the corner. Stay tuned!
John has 20+ years of work in the digital/brand retail marketing field and is the Social Shopper Marketing category creator. He helped build one of the first ‘people as media’ platforms at Walmart called Elevenmoms and founded Collective Bias (Acquired by Inmar in 2016) and teaches as an adjunct professor at NC State University.