A few weeks ago I visited a new prototype store from a major U.S. retailer in order to learn more about their omnichannel strategy. Expecting a customer-centric experience that seamlessly connects the digital and physical stores, I was disappointed to see what appeared to be a misguided omnichannel deployment, with an experience that was actually inferior to one without enhanced technology. Here’s why:

  • New layout but broken technology.  Upon entering the store, I noticed a different layout with a lounge area on the right and an inoperable digital kiosk staring right at me. While the layout did appear to be more welcoming, the dark interactive display indicated a lack of commitment to execution
  • No in-store inventory or location-based awareness.  I found a smaller kiosk near the front of the store and searched for an item online.  I chose the 'pick up in store' feature, expecting the kiosk to recognize I'm already in the store and show what's in stock. Instead, this retailer decided to fulfill the order from their distribution center rather than direct me a few feet away to their colorful display showcasing the item. There was no in-store inventory information or any type of store mapping application within the kiosk.
  • Kiosks do not provide utility.  Another department also had a kiosk, but only provided the ability to find and buy the product online. Again I was expecting the retailer to recommend the appropriate product based upon my specific needs, and show me that the product I need is just a few aisles away.
  • Mobile site had key functionality missing from in-store technology. Next to a high ticket item in the store was a QR code that displayed the product information and in-store inventory when scanned with my mobile device.  However when looking up this same item on the in-store kiosk, no in-store inventory was provided for this item, rendering the in-store technology inferior to their mobile application.
  • Associates had no devices.  Despite a clear investment in in-store technology, associates were not equipped with devices that bolstered the in-store experience. When I asked the associate to provide user reviews on a high-ticket item, she was only able to provide anecdotal information rather than leverage the power of their online ratings and reviews.

On the positive side, remaining in a specific department for more than a few minutes triggered an automated announcement over the loudspeaker directing associates to your location. This utility was powered by a video camera and analytics software.

The main takeaway here is simple: Rather than focus on enabling online shopping in the retail store, retailers need to remove channels from their strategy and focus on the utilities that help solve real problems for customers. Granted, the technology needed to support such a vision is challenging to hook together, but haphazard integrations with misguided omnichannel strategies can create more harm than good.

Over the next year, I’ll be focusing on the digital store and the people, process, and technology needed to power these omnichannel retail locations. Be on the look-out for my first report titled Market Overview: Mobile Point of Service, and please reach out to me via inquiry if you’d like to discuss the evolution of the retail store.