The prodigal shopper returns (Part II)

(Read Part I here.)

RetailSmartTV

You have returned to a physical store after years of online shopping and recently you went to your local footwear retailer to buy some shoes. I am curious. You have all the options in the world from The Iconic to Zappos – and presumably even your local store is online – but yet you entered your local shoe store?

Mrs Prodigal

I thought maybe it would be a bit of a novelty to visit one of those old-fashioned stores again to see what it’s like. I figured that after suffering for years they may have learned their lesson. I had a bit of time on my hands, so I popped in.

RetailSmartTV

What did you find when you went back after all these years?

Mrs Prodigal

First of all I noticed the staff. There were so many of them. I don’t know if it is because the retail union disbanded and the wages became more affordable, or whether the retailers just realised that it takes people to make money. I merely had to look up to catch someone’s eye and they were there.

RetailSmartTV

What else?

Mrs Prodigal

Of course, they were actually helpful for a change. They were all equipped with tablets and card readers so they never had to leave me to help me. I even paid them on the spot without having to queue at a till.

Everything that was online was in store and the product prices were the same. There were no extra or hidden charges – just like online retailers don’t charge delivery fees anymore – the price you see is the price you pay. There may be a GST difference on some sites, but I don’t mind paying my taxes here in Australia – I understand that it is important. It is so hard to compare like for like anyway that a 10% difference isn’t that much. At least I know I am not being ripped off.

I am not sure how they afford the rents. Do you?

RetailSmartTV

A previous guest has given us some insights. Apparently the price convergence was forced upon the industry when retailers were threatening to close stores and switch suppliers to make their suppliers come to the party. The suppliers eventually realised that they could not reach everyone through their own websites and that having a physical presence was important. The cost of building out their own network of stores wasn’t an option for most them. Amazon of course is the latest exception to the rule – but even the mighty Dell has closed most of their own stores.

Dell quickly learned that Making computers and retailing technology is not the same business. I hear the Apple board is putting pressure on the new CEO to cut store numbers. After the iPhone 8 turned out to be average and the resulting decline in demand across all Apple products had suddenly made those high-rent locations seem more expensive. Only time will tell – but it is funny how the wheel turns.

But tell me more about how your experience has changed in store?

Mrs Prodigal

I am not sure how they did it, but I liked that they found out my name and used it. They did it in a way that made think that they were actually glad to see me.

At the one store, they actually suggested that I don’t buy a product because the new version was due the following day. I suppose that is smart – because I would have returned anyway soon after and that would have just been double the amount work for them. I felt they had my interests at heart.

Of course, the shoe store that I visited was actually fun. They did not try and ‘create an experience’ by doing gimmicky stuff for my entertainment. The staff joked around, but they somehow made me feel included.

Having said that, I did experience a bit of wow too. Instead of disappearing into a storeroom for 5 minutes to get a pair of shoes in my size – they actually asked me some smart questions about what I liked and what I wanted, snapped a picture of my feet and the next thing this conveyor belt was activated that rotated five pairs of shoes to my seat. When it stopped – the conveyor belt actually said ‘Tah Dah’ – it was hilarious.

And all the shoes were perfect. Instead of one pair I took three.

Without even having to try it on, I could see my feet on the touch screen in front of me and it showed all the shoes on my feet. I uploaded the three I liked to MySpace (don’t you just love that story how they made a comeback and Facebook died?)

Anyway – my friends voted on the shoes and it was pretty even – so I took all three.

Retail$martTV

Did they appear to be worried about that old showrooming thing?

Mrs Prodigal

Funny you mention that. It seems as if they realised that the web actually gave them the opportunity to carry a wider range than they could actually have available in-store, and one sales person mentioned that.

Of course they offered to deliver the shoes to my home if it wasn’t convenient for me to carry it away. Which was nice – since carrying three boxes of shoes isn’t that practical.

Retail$martTV

So was it the whizbang technology and the conveyor belt gimmick that created the experience?

Mrs Prodigal

Not really. That was fun. And it made shopping easier. But the real difference was how they made me feel actually. It seems as they finally realised that we don’t shop because we need to but because we want to and that we don’t buy another pair of shoes because our feet need to be protected; but because of how it makes us feel.

Retail$martTV

People buy don’t buy perfume, they buy sex appeal?

Mrs Prodigal

Exactly. And those who thought they were selling clothes or chocolates or even cars, are out of business and the ones who understood that we were buying how those products make us feel are thriving.

Retail$martTV

Thanks for your time.

Mrs Prodigal

Glad I could help.

Dennis

·        Now director of newly launched Retail$mart Pop-Up_U (Check it out.)