The Future Of Retail? This Isn’t It!

A vision of Wi-Fi-powered in-store app use that we just can’t take seriously.

The Future Of Retail? This Isn’t It!

This idea of the “wired store” has been perpetuated for years, but without much evidence that consumers want it or that it would in any way improve customer experience or loyalty. The article included below is all too typical: The source quoted is a representative for a commercial Wi-Fi provider, so it’s no surprise that he’s shilling. It’s not even clear how in-store Wi-Fi would be useful to the retailer paying for it.

The scenario for checking in-store inventory doesn’t seem sensible in light of advancements in fulfillment, and what’s the point of hiding inventory for items the retailer expects to sell? It gets more bizarre. What’s the point of an augmented reality app in the sports section of a big-box store or the lingerie aisle of a boutique? Furthermore, why would you want to limit the buying experience to someone who is guilty of leaving their phone in the car? If we were to bet, we’d put our Bitcoins on the success of Kate Spade’s in-store experience rather than the decidedly unrealistic scheme below. Via LuxuryDaily:

Having this [Wifi] connection can help retailers expand their aisles in-store by showing products that may not be out on the shelves. Consumers could also use the in-store Wi-Fi to find a specific product at another nearby store or online, if the product is not currently available at the store they are in. “[Wi-Fi] can expand what consumers are seeing in-store and it makes for an endless aisle,” Mr. DeStasio said. “Consumers can see if it is in a different size or color, or go to a different store where they can actually go buy it.” Customer service can be greatly increased by making sure a customer can locate what they want to purchase. This is especially important to luxury marketers since superior customer service is what distinguishes luxury retailers from mainstream retailers. “Embracing Wi-Fi in store allows the retailer to show customers more information than they would normally have about products,” Dave Rodgerson, senior management consultant of retail strategy and change at IBM Canada, Toronto. “In any luxury store, the customer experience is one of the most important differentiators,” he said. These experiences can also be further enhanced by other technologies such as augmented reality. “Augmented reality mobile applications can create a bridge between the physical world of the store and a digital customer experience,” Mr. Rodgerson said.

Backtrack by reading our series about how Software Is Changing The Future Of Retail

[Image: Flickr user Windell Oskay]

About the author

I've written about innovation, design, and technology for Fast Company since 2007. I was the co-founding editor of FastCoLabs.