Retail: Time to Blaze a New Trail

Posted by: Jeff Reynolds
  • September 6, 2017

To borrow from Clayton Christiansen, I had a “job to be done.” I’m soon headed on an outdoor trip in the mountains where there will be snow, biking, hiking and lots of time outdoors. I needed some flexible clothing that allows me to layer. My closet wasn’t up to the job, so I need a retailer to help me.

I ultimately gave $500 of my business to a $3BB national outdoor retailer, but the experience was nothing short of painful and makes it unlikely that I will shop there again.  The sum total of the effort will, once again, increase my use of online–Amazon in particular. At every turn, the retail experience was full of frustration and wasted time.

This shopping trip started off as a crazy long trek from down the block due to the parking lot construction and traffic jams in the lot. Although not what I wanted or needed, my outing became a DIY experience where I could not find the sections in the store I needed due to poor signage and no sales help on the floor. There were few mirrors in the store, so I walked back and forth, back and forth, back and forth to the mirror to judge the look and fit of the apparel. Thirty seven customers were in the check-out line, with a wait so long, I had time to write this entire blog (seriously!). Oh, and by the way, my six year old son was with me, adding to the ease of all of these challenges.

Retailers better wake up to the fact that they must offer added value compared to online. Were it not for the hard deadline of my trip which made an online purchase risky (e.g., what if it doesn’t fit?), I would have bailed in the parking mess. The DIY Big Box model may be limping along, but without giving consumers good reasons to spend all that time, energy and frustration, retailers that don’t make adjustments will fade away.

It probably means they need to increase their costs to deliver this value, which takes courage at a time when top lines are down and the pressure to cut costs are immense. People. Training. Signs. Mirrors. Traffic cops when your lot is a mess. But making that choice is essential to a differentiated offer vs. online. Either retailers need to consistently bring additional value (beyond inventory), or consumers will keep looking to Amazon or other online retailers to help finish the jobs they need done.

Categories: Customer Experience

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