The future of retail is definitely without a doubt digital – or is it?


The future of retail is definitely without a doubt digital – or is it?

In 2015 I think it’s unequivocally okay to speak for the vast majority of us when I say that we’ve been ‘last seen’ on WhatsApp 8 seconds ago and ‘last seen’ reading a book 8 months ago. I’m not judging and there’s no shame in this but it does quite accurately depict how we consume media.

Now, shift this perspective over to retail, the trends are similar – we are becoming more digitally fluent than ever before and in this vein are quickly becoming ‘apped out’ and utterly immune to digital marketing.

Excluding the online retail giants, when was the last time you downloaded a retailer’s own app? And what’s the point if you can access it quicker through the web with a ‘quick and dirty’ experience to get to the information needed.

As a case-in-point example, I asked this question around the office – Becky in marketing sprung to life and said she downloaded the Westfield app last week to help navigate this rather sparkly and gargantuan rabbit warren. Brilliant I said, let’s have a look.

‘Oh, well I’ve deleted it as I didn’t need it anymore, I’ll just grab it again the next time I get lost’

Which makes complete sense, right? It’d be comparable to getting home and filing a map and voucher booklet from a shopping trip two weeks ago. But with digital this logic still surprises us and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because it’s not designed to be disposable, the complete opposite is true. As such I’d argue that the future success of retailers is an ever-growing dependency on understanding the digital consumption of customers in the real physical world – something that certainly hasn’t been nailed yet…

The bridge between digital and physical has always been somewhat of a clunky experience and only through trying new things can we continue to innovate in truly understanding consumer behaviour to find the right solution for the right brand.

A perfect example of a digital retailer making waves in the physical world can be seen with Amazon. Recently releasing Amazon Echo and just this week announcing Amazon Dash, they very much understand the value of things people can touch, see, hear and feel for themselves; AKA touch-points.

There’s a few reasons why this is where a lot of their attention is at the moment. As human beings we are not only innately curious creatures but also sceptical ones. Food, flats, cars, hotels – how many times have you read reviews online and thought ‘looks great but I’ll need to see this for myself’ and it’s that physical experience that forms a memory and thus an emotional connection with a product.

So all this leads to the questions, ‘how can I, the retailer, leverage the digital and physical effectively’?

The short answer is this – ensure to always embrace and enhance the customer journey and to never interrupt it.

Look again at Amazon Dash, illustrating this as succinctly as I’ve ever seen. The button is something physical and located (and branded) by the product that could run out, ready and waiting when the user is running out. Time and place. This would not work half as well as a button within the brands own app saying ‘top me up’. Call me a realist but that’s because if it’s not right in front of us, we probably won’t do it.

Sam is the Co Founder of SwipeStation where he lives and breathes connecting the digital to the physical for his brands. SwipeStation is a scanner, printer and screen in a box that enables physical and mobile couponing to be quick and secure.  Contact Us