Perhaps it’s my engineering mind that determines my relatively simple approach to shopping: I go to the shopping mall to buy the one thing I need – from the one shop I know has it – and then I can leave. This is certainly not the approach everyone takes to shopping. However, for me and many others, convenience is key, and with services such as Amazon Prime 2 day delivery and start-ups such as Postmates, that promise anything delivered in under an hour, I may soon never have to go to the mall again.
And it’s not just customers like me that have retailers struggling with the return-on-investment of their physical stores. Millennial shoppers are making the traditional mall hangout trip virtual, swapping Pinterest boards for inspiration, searching online to find the lowest possible price, and then sharing their purchases on Facebook or YouTube. (My editor has asked me to cut my thoughts on “unboxing” and “haul” videos.) Facebook’s recent launch of hyper-local ads however, provides an opportunity for the physical store to market exclusive content and offers to tempt passers- by inside.
Even when in the physical store, people will use recommendation from peers, rather than in-store assistants to choose what to try on, even sending a ‘selfie’ to friends for comment and agreement before buying. The issue for retailers is that this happens within the changing room and there is no opportunity to either influence the choices made or build the relationship during the decision process.
Consequently, retailers are exploring new ways to maximise the value of their retail footprint with innovative new technology, such as Burberry’s use of RFID (radio frequency identification) tags, which mean that customers can flash clothes in front of interactive screens to see how a handbag detail or raincoat lining is made when in store.
However, this still doesn’t address the retailer’s inability to harness the inherent power of the peer group. Several solutions need to be brought together in order to provide an holistic experience to the buyer such as: micro-positional technologies, stock control systems, and real-time communications, that open up the power of the community in a way that stores can access, track and optimise.
We’ll be exploring some of these new technologies at Dreamforce, in partnership with Salesforce.com and Tata Consultancy Services. I’ll be co-hosting a panel discussion with Lisa Hammitt, VP of Marketing, Salesforce.com Communities, to discuss these retail trends and unveil a new solution that brings some of these pieces together.
It might even be enough to get me to visit the mall just for fun.
What is your view on “social shopping”? Please leave a comment below.
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