Debbie circumvents the line of shoppers and approaches the checkout counter with a smooth black leather jacket. She manages to divert the attention of a clerk hastily wrapping a customer’s purchase in the mid-range clothing store. “Can you help me with other colors of this jacket – this is the only one you seem to have?” she says. The clerk looks around but can’t find a spare iPad. She excuses herself, runs to the back room and sees it shelved - likely the assistant manager was checking the baseball scores again when he should've been helping his staff.
The clerk grabs the tablet and moves to a corner of the store with the eager shopper. Debbie says, "I LOVE this jacket. But, I want it in a lighter color – what do you have? Also, I think I need to go down one size." The clerk opens up Safari and curses in her attempt to sign into the brand's digital commerce solution. She logs in on the second try after fumbling with the onscreen keyboard. Not loading fast. It’s going to be another long day… Finally, she’s in!
She looks to her right and sees her colleague nodding for her to drop the shopper. There's an increasingly chaotic frenzy going on in the store. It’s just a few days after thanksgiving and it’s been getting hectic – seems way worse than last year even though sales are predicted to be down.
The clerk turns her attention back to Debbie who seems excited to make this purchase. She finds the main jacket sku and presents the digital swatches. “That Aqua Blue looks nice – can you show me it?” Debbie says. The clerk clicks and then looks back over to her colleague. It’s like a bizarre off-rhythm dance between the two clerks as they wave their hands, but at least it fills in the time waiting for each screen to load. The large pic is up!
“I think I’ll like the aqua blue leather – I hope it looks as good as it does in the pic. Oh – but – is the texture different? The black one is soooo silky” Debbie coos, trying to convince herself that the (hopefully) right sized one in a different texture will be on-point. Of course, she could return it if not, after she gets back from Tahoe, which is why she’s buying it in the first place…
The clerk would love to nail this commission - it's a high-end purchase for the affordable luxury chain. Meanwhile, the line is building ever more rapidly and the cashier is shaking her head like a fish bobber trying to get the clerk back behind the counter.
The store’s a hot mess to be frank. You see, they are using the same “Digital Commerce” system at the till as she used on the mobile iPad to help Debbie with her special order. It’s essentially an eCommerce site, a web-based POS, and web shopping can still be sluggish, especially during peak season when retailers need their systems to be faster than ever. It’s okay at home but it's NOT acceptable to the 30 people standing in line!
"2L you think? Might be long in the sleeve – I wish I could try it on. $2,800? Hmmm OK - let's do it! Can you ship it to my house?” The clerk is a bit miffed – it's a stretch of a buying decision as Debbie cannot see, feel or try-on the high-end item. What she is thinking is maybe this is the future – it’s a nice sale! Her thoughts die quickly though as she looks back towards her colleagues. Oh boy – are they fighting at the counter now over who’s next? Did someone just throw a punch?!?
The clerk focuses and looks to wrap this up and asks Debbie if she’s been here before. Debbie provides her phone number. The clerk looks her up and asks if she wants it shipped to her home address, but of course finds out, the address has just changed as they pass the 15-minute mark since they left the counter. At this rate, she may get this commission, but lose her job for leaving her boss and 2 others drowning at the registers.
Debbie is a bit oblivious to the store around her as she’s about to commit to the order and leans over the tablet. “One sec – customer history? Cool! Are you able to tell me if the jacket matches the blue Coach bag I bought here last Spring? I totally forgot about that!” Dammit, the clerk thinks. This sale was DONE. She tries to reassure her “yes”, but at this point, she’s not even focused on Debbie anymore, “Oh I’m so sorry, I’m thinking, this is dumb! I can’t even try it on. And I really have to go, this is all just taking too long.” Debbie bolts.
Is this how consumers really shop? Thankfully, it's not. Sure, in some niche retail segments, it has its place. But for most retailers, this is a 1 out of 100 thing and you can’t afford to have it crush the other 99 out of 100 purchases.
99% of the time, shoppers do not go to the mall for a deep omni-channel in-store experience.
Shoppers go to the store to try on, feel, touch. I promise you, we are at least 25 years away from Debbie being able to virtually touch the rough textured fabric and see the light bounce off of the blue leather from its confines of the warehouse. In the meantime, suggesting we should buy this way and engineering POS solutions around this first and foremost, will cost the average retailer more than it will ever make them.
Sales at the largest retailers are slumping. The major cloud ERP / Commerce providers can offer deep customer history data and overdone in-store features like never before – this is their pitch to save the large and mid-market retailers. Beyond niche, they’re succeeding too often in convincing the traditional retailer that in-store omni-channel is essential – that this is why they’re losing. Really? This is why Macys and Target are struggling?
Deloitte developed a Retail Volatility Index (page 5 of this report talks about the index) that looks at how much of the marketshare held by the top 25 retailers is being snatched by start-ups and upstarts in the retail business. Between 2009 and 2014, the top 25 retailers in the United States have lost 1.3 percent of their market share — or $48 billion — to a growing number of smaller competitors and the latest data shows that this trend is continuing. THIS is what’s disrupting retail, not the lack of complex overdone in-store software.
What are these disruptors using? The internet and social media to reach consumers with unique brands and innovative products. They are reaching customers that only the mega-retailers could afford to reach just a decade ago. In the store they are using Square and Clover. Simple POS that gets the job done quickly. If they’re lucky, these growing brands are large enough to afford a great cloud ERP / Unified Commerce platform like NetSuite or Salesforce with a well-integrated, fast and reliable POS, like our SuitePOS. If they are unlucky, they’ve bought into more tech than they will use in the store-front and have bogged down something that was not broken and needs to be faster, if anything, not slower and over-complicated.
In terms of brick-and-mortar technology, retailers need to continue focusing on their shoppers’ primary POS behavior – the need for immediate gratification and simplicity in the storefront. In terms of stopping disruption, their focus needs to be on product and innovation if they are to beat the smaller, nimbler retailers. This should have little to do with software selection.
Keep it simple. Keep It fast. Use omni-channel data to the fullest and make sure it’s on one platform, but do not work all that data into the in-store shopping experience at the expense of speed and simplicity.