Mauled or over malled —
The disruption in retail.

I’ve so enjoyed David Bowie’s new video “Where are we now” a mournful plea which takes stock of the world’s current momentum with considerable regret. Not surprisingly, given these current times of uncertainty that it should top iTunes within three hours globally and become number one in nine countries within three days. I spoke recently to the board of a major retailer challenging them to think about “Where they were now” in that these are uncertain times in how we like to shop.

For hundreds of years we have been shopkeepers almost without change. From the beautiful Victorian arcades of London to a Westfield shopping mall the jump really isn’t all that great. The industry is waking from a long sleep and facing greater threats, which can’t be defended by doing more of the same.

E-commerce introduces more options to us as customers than ever before and we will only spend our money on the very best option. Retailers now need to become vigilant across all channels giving the customer many ways in which they can purchase their products. The exciting thing is that they now have the digital tools to socialize their offering. Whilst e-commerce is still a small part of total retail sales, it is growing faster than traditional retail. has become the world’s largest vending machine, consumers have more power than ever before and mobile devices are altering the landscape forever. Smart phones are everywhere so without question mobile retail revenues will just keep on increasing.

Many Retailers that once dominated are now on this brink and unless they adapt their extinction could well be in sight. There are many models around the world with different leanings and each retailer needs to borrow from these and put together a total tapestry of energies focused on their kind customer, coupled with a great friendly brand which encourages a relationship.Retails current footprint will need to include many different channels for directing and transferring goods to customers. However tinkering with these new technologies can be dangerous unless the retailer addresses the brand proposition first. What kind of retailer are they? Price off?, Value, Variety, Cornerstone Essentials, there are many positions. No longer is it possible to be all things to everyone, when the options are so wide and “clikably visible” to we the customers. Supposing you want to dominate the essentials category across a range of goods, then you will need to decide the cost to serve each of the relevant touch points. What are the opportunities to drive additional revenue? And how should the customer experience be.

Mapping the customer journey from end to end and defining the specific role at each touch point i.e. social, mobile, tablet and even the forthcoming in store technologies. Does each touch point reinforce the right messages building confidence consistently in physical or e-commerce ways? What feeling will you give me beyond price, to make me comfortable in your real or virtual space? Unquestionably mobile shopping is on the rise and it’s here to stay and the digital wallet is slowly taking over. I can see the day where cash registers will disappear and all sales will be on tablets immediately adjacent to the stories they depict of the products. Stores will not disappear in that we are social animals and like to congregate and experience things. However, giving up our precious time will only appeal to us if you help me with new ideas.

Social media tools can help a great deal to discover new products, that word-of-mouth endorsement from a friend is better than anything. In the end, as physical human beings we will always crave the real experience. Stores need to be experiential centres where you and I can go to interact with the brand. Where I can touch, learn more, feel and purchase the product quickly. When I finally arrive at my destination having researched my purchase the customer face-to-face service response well delivered will be increasingly appreciated. Surveys continue to endorse that face-to-face customer service still reigns supreme. This means that with the threat of digital the bricks and mortar experiences must get even better. Less merchandise and more space for the experience.