Thursday, July 12, 2012

GigaOM: Is the Future of Retail Is Showrooming?

Thought GigaOm's headline on this article was spot on. If you think about stores like Apple, Ikea, William Sonoma etc., they combine customer service, on-site education and the ability to browse items with a soft sell approach. Even Microsoft is essentially copying Apple with their Windows stores.

Certainly, there are some instances where you need an adapter or a case or a gift card immediately, and you want to be able to buy it the same day (Last minute Christmas shopping comes to mind). 

But, most of the time, if you can look at an item in a show room and then buy it from Amazon with free shipping and a fairly low price, that's what you are going to do. This is the antithesis of car shopping, where you are essentially trapped once you enter the showroom. 

I've had friends tell me they liked being able to look at items for their wedding or baby registries at a physical store like Crate & Barrel, but then the registry exists online, and the shipping and gift wrapping is all handled. Considering how much money is spent on these registries, you would think more retailers would adopt this approach.

Seems so obvious, yet look at JCPenny's struggles to adopt a more Apple-ish approach. 

Another store that drives me insane is REI. While their customer service is great, the way their stores are laid out is generally horrible. It is great that they offer free shipping with in-store pickup, where you likely end up buying something else.

This as Amazon is apparently considering same-day delivery in some areas.

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