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The Holy Grail of Retail

by Devin Akin on Jan 2, 2014

In the retail market, the current Holy Grail is to unify the online and in-store shopping experiences (sometimes called ‘omni-channel’ retailing) such that the customer has a personalized shopping experience that promotes brand loyalty. The customer experience should be enjoyable and personalized, with available contextually relevant and timely information that makes interacting with the retailer effortless and transparent.

Technology Is Here

Will every salesperson know your name in not so distant future? Will every salesperson know your name in the not so distant future?

The technology now exists to enable such capabilities, and retailers can drive a new generation of brand awareness and loyalty programs. The new focus will be on growing the business while leaving behind the worries of showrooming and shrinking margins.

Since the technology is here, why then isn’t every major retailer making a move toward the Holy Grail at a break-neck pace? Why can’t I walk into my local electronics store, expecting this guy to walk up to me with an iPad, and…

“Hi, I’m Jason. Welcome to Electro’s! Glad you’re here again, Mr Thompson.”

“Hi Jason. How did you... Uh, nevermind. Nice iPad.”

“Thanks. Company issue device. Your phone told me… neat, huh? So, how may I help you today?”


“Oh, sorry. Allow me to explain. Our wireless system identified your phone by its MAC address, which is tied to our loyalty program, which you enrolled in last year. Our CRM system told my iPad that you entered the store. Since my iPad and your iPhone are obviously acquainted, is it OK if I call you Fred? Great, thanks. So Fred, if I were to mention that we have the Riad Wireless BL2009 802.11ac USB 3.0 adapter that’s in your Electro Online Wish List available here in the store, would that interest you today?”

“Well Jason, let me think about that for a second…. uh YES! How cool is THAT?”

“I kind of thought you might like that. I’ll have it pulled out of stock and taken to register 7 for you so that you can continue shopping. Is there anything else that I can help you with today?”

“Actually, yes. Do you have any more of those BL2009 units in stock here at this store?”

“Sure. We have three more. We correlated your Wish List with that of hundreds of others in the area and decided that it would probably be a good idea to stock a few of them just in case. I guess that turned out to be a good idea.”

“Fantastic. I’ll log into your guest Wi-Fi and let my peeps know that Electro has three more units. I bet they’ll be sold by the end of the day. They’re really in demand among my friends. Thanks for your help Jason.”

Wait… wait… wait… No! Not reality! Oh well… now that we’re back, where were we? Ah yes, that break-neck pace discussion. Is anyone else seeing retailers reaching an semblance of the Holy Grail yet? Are you having out-of-this-world, converged retail experiences yet? If not, have you considered why?

Where’s That Business Model Redesign?

When I walk into any kind of retailer, whether big-box discounters, restaurants or QSR, department stores, supermarkets, warehouse retailers, specialty shops, convenience stores, or any other, I’m just not seeing very much forward momentum. Jeff Roster, Gartner’s retail practice lead, said in a recent webinar that the retail industry would require “Business Model Redesign” due to the impact of Gartner’s “Nexus of Forces” (essentially the SMAC concept that AirTight talks so much about). I guess that business model redesign process is going more slowly than hoped-for with most retailers… What do you think?

  • Perhaps “break-neck pace” is relative, and my expectations are ridiculous?
  • Could it be lack of funding in the retail sector?
  • Maybe it could be a shortage of technical expertise among retailers?
  • A lack of motivation perchance? (e.g. they’re making lots of money with no competition)

No. I wouldn’t guess that it’s any of these reasons. Where I think the problem lies is with 1) operational implementation, and 2) organizational unity. You know what they say, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

In part 2 of this post I will discuss the operational implementation and organizational unity in greater detail. Stay tuned!

/Image via Wikimedia Commons

Topics: WiFi, Analytics, PCI, Cloud, Managed Service, 802.11ac, WiFi Access, Retail