I recently subjected myself to a high street retail experience (something I confess I do avoid where possible).
I was shopping with my wife and two children and one of our tasks was for my wife to try on some boots that my mother-in-law was hoping to buy her for Christmas. The context and process for this really highlighted to me how far the high street retail business has to go to embrace the multi-channel retail opportunity.
The whole thing went something like this: We arrive in large department store, ask for assistance (this went badly from the start as the assistant simply pointed to a colleague and didn’t offer us any help at all) and eventually we find our way to the right place for womens boots. The young assistant (fearful of our whirlwind of pushchair, noisy children and clearly somewhat stressed parents) helps my wife to find the right boots at the right size. Wife duly tries on, we determine they fit and look the part and promptly leave the store. The whole thing being an elaborate facade.
You see, we couldn’t TELL the assistant we were trying them on for someone else to buy as we had no intention of leaving with the boots purchased that day. But what if we could? What if the assistant had said “Are these for you to buy today or are you trying them on for someone else to buy as a gift?” What if he’d taken my mother-in-laws email from my wife so he could have arranged for an email to be sent confirming the size was correct, the boots in stock and that they could be collected or ordered for home delivery?
I don’t see any reason this whole experience couldn’t have been quite different and directly led to a sale for that department store. Yet it also feels that’s such a long way off.
Image: David Hawgood