The Store of the Future is Not a Store

The Store of the Future is Not a Store

By Lee Peterson

The following is a preview of our upcoming white paper.

The last couple months have seemingly changed everything about stores. Social distancing. Employees behind shields. Customers wearing masks. And how about these stories exemplifying how quickly things have changed:

  • Walmart’s app sees record downloads, surpasses Amazon by 20% (TechCrunch)
  • Amazon stops accepting new online grocery customers amid surging demand (CNBC)
  • Weekly online grocery sales increase for the last 8 weeks straight, including more than 80% for two weeks in mid-March (WSJ)

So what’s next? The headlines are coming. They’ll say the apocalypse is near for some sectors. And that may be true.

But let’s look below the surface. Declaring the apocalypse is the easy response.

The brands who have not invested smartly were already declining, and the pandemic has accelerated that decline

The reality is that brands who have invested in scaling Buy Online Pickup In Store or At Store (BOPIS), using operations and labor strategy to support BOPIS, and developing digital tools to ensure success are the ones who are likely to survive post-pandemic. The brands who have not invested smartly were already declining, and the pandemic has accelerated that decline.

Below the surface, this shift has been happening for a long time. Now, it’s a rapid spin instead of just a shift. The theme of the shift?

The store of the future is not a store!

This does not mean that stores won’t exist. This means that the definition of the store will broaden immensely.

The store of the future is…

A Dark Store

Dark stores have received some added press via Kroger, which recently opened a pickup-only location in Cincinnati, Ohio. As consumers shift toward pickup and delivery, strategically located dark stores throughout a brand’s portfolio can help employees fulfill orders quicker and improve the experience for customers.

A Fulfillment Center

We’ve written about stores as fulfillment centers in this very space. Brands looking to compete with industry leaders like Amazon and Walmart should consider dedicating a portion of their stores to fulfilling orders. BOPIS, ship-from-store, delivery and ecommerce can all be managed through a dedicated, streamlined fulfillment center model.

A Delivery Hub

Depending on your product offering, it could lend itself to focusing on delivery. Customer expectations have shifted. Two-day shipping has become next day, which has been shortened to same day delivery. Whether using a third-party delivery system or your own drivers, a delivery hub can provide a way to get products out quicker.

A Showroom Store

As the world changes, so to do showroom stores. For the foreseeable future, most customers will likely be sensitive to how many people have touched or tried out products before they make a purchase. With the right safeguards in place, a showroom store can be a strong solution for this problem. Customers can check out multiple products before making a selection, then an untouched product can be shipped to the person’s home. The tested products can then be sterilized before the next customer tries them out.

An Entertainment Experience

We saved the fun for last. As restrictions are lifted, consumers will have a lot of pent up energy to go out and experience the world again. Stores are included here. Consumers will want to be able to experience their favorite brands in ways they were unable to do so via ecommerce. Whether that means adding a food experience at your store or developing a unique partnership, entertainment can certainly be part of the future store mix.

Ok, admittedly, the store of the future may not be all of those things at once, but smart brands will have versions of each of the above as part of their portfolio strategy.

In order to further understand how consumers feel about the store of the future not being a store, we talked to shoppers regarding the changing shopping world. The upcoming paper will share those consumer responses and provide recommendations for building, executing and scaling the stores of the future. Below the surface, there are a lot of opportunities for brands that use this time to invest in the future of stores and the future of shopping.

Lee Peterson
Lee Peterson
Executive Vice President, Thought Leadership & Marketing
WD Partners

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