Store of the Future. Personalized Experience. Making the Store Fun Again. It seems we are hearing more and more ideas about what the retail experience of the future will hold. Suggestions of making the in-store experience "more personalized" and incorporating more 'retailtainment" are rampant. Is that what the customer really wants? Is today's shopper so starved for something to do they are turning to Walmart and Target for their entertainment? Should brick and mortar stores increase their footprint and add play zones, Slip and Slides, and more free samples of cereal bars and smoothies?
The opportunities for personal and family entertainment are more numerous now than any time in history. We can now have what we want, when we want it, and when it fits into our schedules. Growing up, Thursday night's on NBC was "Must See". No matter what was going on in the world, time stopped at 7pm for Cosby, Family Ties, Cheer's, maybe a little Night Court. Today, Mom and Dad are covering more road than a street sweeper, going from school, to soccer, to dance, grabbing a bite, doing some homework, then finally relaxing with a glass of vino and Netflix, ready to do it all again tomorrow. People are not looking for more ways to be entertained, they are looking for more time and convenience. Even attendance at NFL and College Football games are down as the convenience and cost savings of watching at home is winning over dropping a smooth thousand on tickets, parking and $9 Cokes. Time and money usually always win out.
But if we do go down the path of increased in-store experience, who picks up the tab? With retailers focused on winning the pricing game, they are pushing suppliers to lower prices. At the same time, they are asking for more from suppliers in terms of in-store activity to keep the shopper engaged. In a perfect world, there would be enough margins built in to offer the shopper a high-quality product, at a value price, plus a free pony ride at the store, and everyone could be happy. Unfortunately, that isn't going to happen any time soon. Today's legacy brands aren't built to get super low on price, and increase in-store promotional dollars, for any length of time any way. We could see the continued rise of challenger brands whose pricing and promotional efforts are more suited to today's retailer needs. Which also feeds into younger shoppers not being so brand focued and looking for value.
Retailers need to keep their eye on the ball and concentrate on what is important today. Quick and easy checkout, YES. More focus on mobile shopping and in-store pickup, WINNER. More variety and low prices, YOU BET. Give shoppers more of what they really need, time and money, and leave the "entertainment" out of the equation.