Constipated wallets spoilt by choice —
Can retailers change and make me curious?

From the boring shelves of the physical to experiential, modern retailing is being hurtled into an uncertain future where the boot’s on the other foot and we the wearer will only cross the shops’ threshold if we’ve researched first on line. When we arrive we want ideas, and ways we can enjoy our purchase, we’re not there to buy an item but rather an outcome.

Virtual goods begin the seduction process from discovery, then comparison, followed by decision and delivery in the physical.

The shopping experience begins online and needs to be linked seamlessly to the advertisement, the window, the in-store experience and service attitude, using the same tone of voice.

Trying to say as little as possible, as clearly as possible, is of course difficult for a retailer with thousands of lines, but this is where true savvy is needed to create the right lures into the category. Be it beach or BBQ, the trick is to curate the experience under the palm trees or in the backyard with the related unsolicited extras which surround your item. Isn’t curate a fancy word from the art world? Yes of course, so if it’s difficult for seasoned retailers try being an editor instead. Editorial or curatorial retailing is the looming bend in the road which has to be navigated to avoid spinning into extinction.

The acknowledgement, that the process of abundance and choice is defeating us all. In fact it’s constipating our wallets causing confusion and indecision, rather than triggering our impulses. How many times do we run out of an appliance store stacked to the gunnels with technology petrified we might buy the wrong thing. I can blame the accountants because I used to be one knowing how tempting it is to stack the inventory and ping the margin each month in persuit of stock turn.

As products become more and more commodities, take the basic chinos as an example, perceived value must come from the user experience in buying and later in wearing from the association of story. And the story can begin well before the physical in a virtual sense. Most big box retailers have big box website layouts and design, which is almost a mirror of their lifeless shelving systems, there is no experience, ideas or editorial to encourage us in the category we are considering.

Much has been written on the digital threat to retail and all the tech commentators pitch in with clever suggestions to solve the challenges. For me the biggest threat to retailers, will be their ability to change internal behaviors, away from an obsession with excellent processes, to building equal strengths in product design, selective editing of categories and creating what I would call a serendipitous value to encourage my curiosity to visit regularly.

E-commerce still lacks browsing and discovery experiences which delight us. Many stores have forgotten how to do this as they race to increase their inventory, thinking the one stop shop image and low prices are everything.

Constipated from choice, yes – my challenge to retailers is to make me curious.