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Sore-based Service Still Too Static

Internet-savvy consumers are growing disenchanted with the traditional store experience, challenging the creativity of retailers.

Internet-savvy consumers are growing disenchanted with the traditional store experience, challenging the creativity of retailers.

Kathryn Cullen, vice president of Kurt Salmon Associates, a consulting firm, said “superconsumers” know how to get what they want from the Internet and expect more from stores as a result.

“What they don’t like is, when they go into stores, there isn’t that instant information,” she said. “There isn’t detailed knowledge about the products and services they are looking for. There is a very significant disconnect between what we are doing on the Internet to service customers versus what we are doing in the store environment.”

Macy’s, Zara and The Container Store are among retailers responding with diverse offerings and a dynamic shopping experience, Cullen said.

In Macy’s shoe department, salesmen no longer abandon a shopper to retrieve her size from a back room. Instead, they use wireless devices to direct another associate to bring a selected size out so the selling experience is uninterrupted. Zara is adept at speeding style trend information to merchandisers and through the supply chain to ensure its offering is diversified.

Meeting consumer needs “on demand” is another way for stores to differentiate themselves, she said. The Container Store, which sells storage goods, hands wireless devices to New York City shoppers to scan their purchases. It then ships the products to shoppers’ homes the same day so they don’t have to carry bulky items on mass transit.

“That is a tailored solution,” Cullen said. “It doesn’t work everywhere, but it’s what [retailers] are thinking about: ‘What’s going to work for me in my environment.'”

Cullen said retailers were still struggling to bring together all the information needed to understand shopper expectations and provide great service in stores. Existing store infrastructure may not support mobile point-of-sale or the ability to interact with consumers’ personal devices, such as cell phones and personal digital assistants. But that’s what shoppers want.

“They are expecting you to come to them as the Internet comes to them,” she said.