Some people predict that the Internet is going to replace the retail store. It's already killed Borders. What impact could it have on, say, buying a bed or a toaster?
Buying an electronic appliance generally involves three visits, or missions.
A scouting mission, a narrowing mission, and a purchasing mission. Of
those three missions, at least one or two might be happening online,
whereas it previously would be happening in store. The role of the
Internet is an information-gathering -- scouting and narrowing --
vehicle. It doesn't mean less buying. It means less day-to-day traffic.
What's a cool way that retail stores can use the power of the Internet to make us buy more stuff?
Let's say you are Whole Foods. Most of your sales aren't impulse purchases. You have routine shoppers. There should be a phone app that pings the customer -- "Here's your shopping list" -- and lets the customer ping the store -- "I'd like to drop by at one tomorrow." Now instead of browse and shop, you just drive up to a window, like at a fast food restaurant or pharmaceutical counter, and your Whole Foods order has been filled. So Whole Foods shops for you. This isn't about the Internet, but we should also think about return-customers getting an express check-out lane. You would
reward the best customers not just with financial savings, but also with
What company is doing retail the best?
The best 21st century
merchants are not merchants. They're evangelical preachers. We visit an
Apple store as a temple of technology and design. Apple has succeeded in
getting us to buy into its religion. Trader Joe's is another good
preacher. People believe in the store. It's friendly and cheap. The
Container Store is the religion of anal-compulsive. Zara's represents
the ability to be fashionable at a fast fashion price. Those are
examples of merchants that are doing extremely well, and they're doing it with
a mixture of customer service, outreach, and luck.
Tell me a company overseas who is getting retail stores right.
is a major Japanese department store that has a club room inside the
store. There are three ways to access the club. First, you have the
store's branded credit card. Second, you spend a certain amount of money
at the store. Third, you own a minimum number of shares in the publicly
traded stock in that company. The club isn't an empty perk. It's a
place you can park your husband, have your own fashion show, and feed you
kid in a quiet place. That is a different way of rewarding your best
customer. I don't see a American merchant who has borrowed it.
You've written quite a bit about the difference between male and female approaches to shopping. Indeed, your butt-brush theory relies on a kind of evolutionary instinct we have of being ambushed. What's the easiest way to understand the difference between men and women as shoppers?