A Case Against Amazon Angst

Reimagining the store of the future

The Internet’s power to level the brick and mortar retail model shows no signs of abating. From consumer electronics to staples like toilet paper and toothpaste, if it can be sold and delivered, Amazon now sells it. Amid this existential threat, many retailers are asking what the store of the future is, but that’s the wrong question. The question retailers must answer to survive is even more fundamental: How can the physical store rival the best tools and conveniences of the online shopping model?

To find an answer, WD Partners brought together its most senior strategists, designers and consumer insights experts. The team first isolated the supposed “unbeatable factors” of online shopping then considered the factors that differentiate brick and mortar from online retail.

A Case Against Amazon Angst

The “unbeatables”

1. One-click shopping:

How can stores integrate the ease and impulse-stoking role of Amazon’s one-click buying tool? Is it possible to bring this level of ease to the payment process inside the store without deploying useless technological applications that require extensive resources or associate training?

2. Price comparison:

With the ease of a Google search, online shopping means never having to wonder if you paid too much. How might stores provide consumers with the same assurances of value in pricing? How can retailers best integrate the ease of online price comparisons within the store environment?

3. Reviews and peer recommendations:

In the data -driven world of online shopping, there’s no shortage of detailed product reviews, from star-based rating systems to endorsements via social media platforms. How can stores bring the decision-making power of this power opinion feedback loop into the physical world of the store?

4. Suggestive selling:

Authentic, human interactions and tactile experiences should trump the algorithm model of suggestive selling, but how? It’s hard to compete against the cookie-based data collection techniques of sites like Amazon, which personalize a consumer’s online experience at every turn. How can retailers bring the well-practiced tool – If you bought X, you may like Y? – into the space of the physical store? Are there better ways for the store environment to drive repeat sales based on past purchases?

5. Endless aisle:

The real-time feedback loop and increasingly next-day – or even same-day delivery model – of online shopping challenges the limited assortment model that’s long structured and informed chain retailing. Do the kiosk-based solutions represent an adequate response? How can retailers take the endless aisle further and offer access to an expanded SKU assortment better and with more emotional appeal?

A Case Against Amazon Angst

The “differentiators”

1. Tactile Experience:

The ability to feel, try on and fall immediately in love with an item isn’t possible online. Despite the convenience of next-day delivery and the impulse-stoking fantasies of online shopping, there’s also next-day regret. The store offers both fantasy and reality all at the same time. How can retailers use this distinction and create a competitive advantage in an Amazon age?

2. Human Interaction:

Mobile life means never having to actually talk to a human being, but mobile life is also isolating. Yes, social media is social, but it’s often not satisfying emotionally. How can retailers tap into this latent dissatisfaction, the lonely malaise of mobile and appeal to the human need for authentic connection?

3. Inspiration:

Despite the efficiencies of online retailing and the superior inventory and distribution, merchandising remains a powerful force: It both creates and uncovers desires. Yes, online tracking and data collection informs online retailers of everything a consumer has ever searched for or bought, but all that data still can’t definitively predict what a consumer didn’t even know they wanted. How can the store own inspiration in fresh, innovative ways? How can stores uncover untapped desires?

4. Entertainment:

Yes, every American today seems to complain about being too busy, but we actually have more leisure time than ever. The great American pastime has and might always be shopping. How can retail reinvent itself and stay relevant within the popular entertainment imagination?

5. Exclusivity:

As the fast-fashion model has shown, the powerful pull of exclusive, here-today-gone-tomorrow merchandise is no passing fad. It can still draw a massive crowd. Exclusivity is the insatiable fetish. Yet online shopping invariably homogenizes and flattens novelty. Why buy something everyone else can buy? How can the store become an exclusive space again, with an edited assortment of select items? How can the store once again appeal to the human desire for novelty and uniqueness in a way online shopping never can?

Questions into Concepts

More than 1,500 consumers rated and ranked the 10 attributes above based on appeal and purchase. We then conducted focus groups that asked consumers to express why some of these offerings resonate with them more than others. After determining the highest priority offerings our Store of the Future team developed category and conventional-wisdom busting creative store concepts that visually capture these consumer demands.

This report will include detailed assessments and rankings on what store of the future concepts consumers liked best, what they want, what they value and, most importantly, what will get them inside the store again. It’s time to bring what online retailers do best into the store experience once and for all. For retailers that want an answer to the threat of the online shopping model, this consumer research report and white paper offers clear strategic recommendations on creating deeper loyalty and reinventing retail in an Amazon age.

Please visit wdpartners.com/research for more information.


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