The Store is Dead: Long Live the Store!

I wonder how many people understand the origin of that oft miss-used phrase of yore—The King is Dead: Long live the King! This seeming oxymoron was actually an affirmation of primogenitor—the royal succession of the eldest son when the king died. It is akin to how we in Western democracies celebrate the peaceful succession of one president or prime minister from another in an election. And it is exactly what we should be celebrating today as the death of the old brick-and-mortar store is being succeeded by the rise of new brick-and-mortar store.

With the rapid rise of ecommerce and all of its offshoots—mobile commerce, social commerce, members-only online flash sales, etcetera, there are many who have sounded the death knell of brick-and-mortar stores. And in fact, stores as we once knew them are quickly dying out. What these naysayers fail to understand, however, is that consumers’ desire for the sensory input of seeing, touching, smelling and trying on merchandise before they buy has not decreased simply because they can now research it, compare prices, and get recommendations from friends and strangers online.  As Lora Cecere of Supply Chain Insights likes to say: Bricks Matter!

That message was loud and clear at NRF 2015—The Big Show. You couldn’t walk down any aisle of the massive exhibit hall without seeing multiple examples of new technologies aimed at improving the in-store experience. From tablet-based systems to help make store associates more knowledgeable and helpful to computer-controlled cameras and mirrors that allow someone to see how they look in a new outfit from any angle, or perhaps in a different color; technology for the store was everywhere.

But it would be wrong to assume that all of the new technology was focused only on improving the in-store shopping experience. In that case it would simply be the same old store dressed up in new colors. The real transformation of the store is about the many new roles it must play in the omni-channel path to purchase. Stores today must be gathering places, entertainment destinations, fulfillment centers, returns depots, and play many more roles. These new roles require a whole new look at floor planning, assortments, associate selection and training, inventory visibility, task management, clienteling and assisted selling tools, incentive programs and much more. This isn’t the same old store—far from it.

The changes also go beyond the four walls of the store. In an omni-channel world, stores are each strategic nodes on an omni-channel path to purchase. When Jenna looks on your ecommerce site and orders that little black dress for her dinner date that night, and wants to pick it up at her local store on the way home from work, it had better be there when she arrives or you just lost a loyal customer as well as the sale. Thus, the new store must be an integral part of a finely-tuned supply chain network or else today’s hyper-connected, ‘I want it now’ shopper will go elsewhere—permanently.

Of course, you’ll never achieve this integrated supply chain network, always on, total visibility state with siloed operations, channel-specific fulfillment and yesterday’s non-integrated technologies. That approach, just like the old store, is dead. The future of retail, as demonstrated at NRF, is based on a ‘synchronized network’ approach with total transparency to inventory and orders, segmented store assortments based on shopper profiles, anywhere/anytime fulfillment and returns—all centered on the customer. While delivering to the customer is the biggest driving factor, retailers also need to achieve the timeless goal of doing so profitably through this synchronized network approach. Again, the store is playing an important role in expanding and extending the ability of retailers to profitably fulfill customer orders.

Does this sound more like tradeshow hype than reality? Perhaps, but retailers such as Nordstrom’s and Macy’s are making great strides in this direction. Are you prepared to tell your CEO that your stores and network are as far along the omni-channel path as they are?

So, yes, the old store as we knew it is dead. But the new store, fulfilling its many new roles within the intelligent ‘synchronized network’ enterprise, presents many exciting new opportunities to profitably delight customers and achieve omni-channel competitive advantage. Yes, the store is dead: long live the store!

 

  37 Comments   Comment

  1. Laurent LOUIS

    Nice article to depict a shift that we all experience but hardly analyze. Modernity (as far as that word means anything) is the state that results from a journey from past to future and back.

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  2. I agree the store is the future in a different form serving the Omni-Channel store enterprise.

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  3. Shai Garber

    Very exciting perspective, loved the energy! Indeed the pace of changes to the shopping experience is accelerating and so do the pressures of the competition. The supply chain is a crucial part of this revolution and needs to align its mission with this new reality that is changing rapidly and unpredictably.

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  4. The blog started with a very attractive and catchy headlines and it makes clear the concept of online shopping and the changing trends. The final conclusion is: Customer is the King.

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  5. Mayra Enriquez

    Great article Razat! We need to embrace the changes that are coming our way to succeed.

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  6. Really enjoyed this article. It seems the “gone with brick and mortar” retailers may not have really been in touch with customers or technology. Hopefully, many will be able to catch up quickly!

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  7. Razat Gaurav

    Brajesh – you’re right. Ultimately, the customer is the King! In the past, it used to be the Retailer (stores) or the Consumer Manufacturer (product). Now that has completely changed in most categories.

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  8. Very true! Store or online, ultimately it is the customer and playing catchup with the customer’s ever changing decisions was always and will always remain a challenge!

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  9. The seamless integration between brick’n’mortar and eCommerce is very vital to running a successful company now days. I’ve noticed that when new shops open up around me that I’m not familiar with, the first thing I do is go to their website to get more information about them. If their website is non created or poorly crafted then I will not go into the actual store. I wonder how many companies do not realize how many customers they are losing based on their lack off eCommerce knowledge.

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  10. Davide Mopera

    I agree the customer is the King, no matter which industry. The role of the store has changed over the years but I like Razat’s perspective on how we should perceive the store.

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  11. Chris Caraballo

    We’ve seen this even within the home improvement industry, customers want to shop an experience. Customers who shop for particular items often have already done their homework, know where to find the product within our stores, and whether they are getting the best price. Great read.

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  12. Stores still amount to a Distribution Center with items people want and do not want. Ever wonder why Apple is so successful. They have 20 items in stock relating to 4 categories and everyone is a showstopper. People do not want an online experience if they have the Genius Bar as well as a sales associate to walk through the product. People thrive on VALUE.

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  13. Chris Harmon

    Good read. eCommerce is growing, but brick & mortar is still king.

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  14. Well said. I research online, but prefer to buy in a store so I can actually see what I am getting.

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  15. Interesting article to make the readers think and give another perspective. I think customer will still want to touch n feel the products before blindly buying them online.Integrating the offline shelf with online and updating them with real price will keep customers going to brick n mortar stores.

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  16. I’m agnostic about whether it’s in-store or online. Let the consumer choose where they want to shop- As long as we have the omni channels, we’re good!

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  17. Durga Prasad

    The in store experience is ultimate customer experience despite many channels offer same sale. this is reiterating the fact physical store is going to evolve and continue to exist its importance.

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  18. Even for customers ordering for home delivery, these stores can be used as buffers to avoid escalations or to provide express deliveries.

    Reply

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