Some Waypoints in the Evolution of Retail

During the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across a number of articles that speak to the evolution of retail.  Here they are for your consideration in no particular order.

Amazon’s new convenience store won’t have checkouts or cashiers.  Is this an improvement in customer service, or does it mean customers don’t need any service?  Will it watch what you buy and suggest other things?  You know it eventually will.  Amazon reminds me a bit of the Japanese auto industry in the years immediately after World War II.  They got to build their industry from the ground up with the latest technology without being held back by bad habits and old manufacturing processes.

Next, here’s a guy from Google talking about printing clothing in your home by 2020.  I wonder how a brand differentiates itself then.  Print whatever piece of clothing you want and put whatever logo on it you care about.  Don’t like it or don’t want to wash it?  Will the materials to print them be so cheap it won’t matter, or will you be able to reconstitute that material and use it again in your home printer?

I’ve been writing occasionally about 3D printing for a while now. Clearly, I was early in terms of retail impact, but it is coming, perhaps in a different form.

Meanwhile, here’s a discussion about how Nordstrom is expanding its digital options for customers.  Apparently, online is now 20% of their revenue, up from 8% five years ago.  But to what extent is that incremental sales rather than online being substituted for instore?  Maybe I’ll go look.

And finally, this article talks about brands’ attempts to reach Generation Z (born after 1995) and tours for social media stars as a mechanism for that.  Probably doesn’t matter since once it makes it to the New York Times, and by the time I’ve heard about it, it’s probably not a thing anymore (Uh, is being a thing still a thing?  Or is it some other thing now?).

This is all intriguing, but confusing.  Perhaps it explains some of the advertising I see on TV these days where a brand tries so hard to find a compromise message that reaches the sensibilities of more than one group that you walk away not sure what product you just saw advertised or why you should care.

Hope some of these articles are useful and make you think.

6 replies
  1. Glenn
    Glenn says:

    Thanks Jeff.
    Yes they made me think……….think that Adam and I have been pointing these trends out for 3-4yrs and no one is listening.
    “No one wants to buy online. They want to touch and feel it, try it on first. They want customer service”
    Obviously not.
    I think I posted the following comment on one of your earlier rants.
    It’s not what you want, it’s what the customer wants. Evolve or Die

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Hi Glenn,
      It’s always been about what the customer wants. Even before the internet. Though granted it was easier to influence the customer before the internet. Another possible perspective is that the internet offers the best customer service ever!
      Wait- I don’t think this qualified as a rant? My rants are way rantier than this.
      See you at Agenda I trust.

    • jeff
      jeff says:

      Well, at 14 shops, not that big. It’s funny- a bankruptcy used to be a big deal. Now, it’s common enough that I just sort of note them in passing. Most of these retail bankruptcies seem to be about getting out from leases. Between too much retail space, the internet, and a weak economy it’s not surprising we’re seeing all of these problems. Wait until we have the next recession.

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