In the first decade of e-commerce’s ascension, with rare exception, the consumer was sitting in their home or office using a desktop computer to do their online shopping. It was a completely virtual experience where the advantages were clear: 24/7 access, wider selection, often lower pricing and so on. So were the disadvantages: inability to try on the product, no instant gratification, no sales help, etc.
Even as e-commerce began to chip away at brick & mortar stores’ dominance, the physical retail experience stayed basically the same. To reap the advantages of in-store shopping you had to travel to the store. Once there, if you wanted product information you had to track down a sales associate and hope that he or she knew what they were talking about. What you could buy had to be in-stock in that particular location. And when you wanted to buy something, you went to a sales register at the front of the store or located in a merchandise department.
With the explosion in mobile devices and smart phones the consumer decision journey is rapidly becoming untethered. Previously a digital shopping experience by definition meant you weren’t in (or close to) a store. But, more and more, what we once counted as an e-commerce shopping trip or sale, versus one made in a physical store, is a distinction without a difference. It’s now a bricks and mobile world.
Increasingly, store sales associates are untethered from their POS registers, lending them the ability to work with a consumer at the real point of sale and arming them with the digital tools that can meaningfully enhance the customer experience.
Today’s omni-channel leaders are keenly aware of how the un-tethering of retail is profoundly altering the consumer and competitive landscape.
For others–the relentless defenders of the status quo–it’s their thinking and willingness to act decisively that needs to be untethered. Hopefully that occurs before their business model becomes unhinged.