Keeping Retail Social, Fresh and Real: Access Anywhere

Just as we saw with the music and the publishing industry, retailing has had to evolve. This is not an easy task to acomplish within a multi billion-dollar industry because the supporting infrastructure around retail, alone, has its’ own eco-system.

We are all familiar with the arguments surrounding the publishing industry that reading needs to be tangible. To hold something, actually turn pages, smell the paper and ink and browsing bookshops offer compelling reasons against change. Ultimately, efficiencies, convenience and price have prevailed.

The difference with retail is that ‘shopping’ is social and personal in ways that books and music aren’t. Fashion, for example is tied to our ego and our individual shape. We need to both gain our peers’ approval as well as ensure it flatters and fits. When we do buy online we consider it more of a purchase or transaction instead of really shopping.

Even with the many ‘social apps and tools’ that accompany our ecommerce, we fail to capture the essence of shopping as a social activity. However, just as with music and books, more and more of us are transacting in unexpected and new ways; and as a result our high streets are at risk of dying if they fail to adapt. Ecommerce is fast becoming a necessary element of a retailer’s integrated sales strategy.

But looking at this as purely “brick and mortar versus online” risks missing a trick and discounting the social or situational context. We are not people who live in either a physical world or a digital world, but rather social beings that traverse the two. The proliferation of smart phones and the affordability of data brings new possibilities to truly marry social shopping, situational or impulse shopping, and ecommerce. We cannot look at this as either commerce, or ecommerce or m-commerce but rather as retail. What needs to be done to ensure our products are made available to our customers in a way that induces profitable sales?

Experience, mood and association are always going to be an important attribute of branding. Putting your product in front of people where they are most likely to feel the compulsion, or impulse, to buy will provide a competitive advantage. This may be physically, or virtually. The ability to tell a story and bring a product to life through social tools within a physical, social context and then provide a way for our audience to act on their impulses allows us to reinvent the way we consume.

Retail is evolving. Elements of brick & mortar, ecommerce, affiliate style curation, social and access anywhere will all play a part in the next generation. You cannot take the social out of shopping.

What are your thoughts on where retail is heading?