The phenomenon of instant gratification is growing exponentially, stated author Liz Gannes in a recent Re/code series.
Instant gratification appears to be a state of mind, not a mind shift, for kids in particular. For example, TV shows are available whenever the viewer is, and games are accessible with the touch of a button.
In an ever-connected world, the mindset of instant gratification inevitably is going to take over the way we interact. And whether instant gratification is ultimately beneficial to us in the long term, it has changed how we live our lives and raise our children.
Brick-and-Mortar Stores Are Like Fulfillment Centers
The new reality of an instant gratification economy raises profound strategic questions for companies that have invested heavily in a physical footprint.
The shift in consumer expectation is already underway, and retailers of all shapes, sizes, and categories have much to gain from the instant gratification economy if they can act quickly and intelligently. For example, physical store locations can provide proximity to the consumer that the online incumbents cannot. These locations, if reimagined and reinvented, can become powerful points of distribution, data, and sales.
Imagine if retailers began to think of their stores primarily as fulfillment centers.
Let's say I need to pick up my prescription at Walgreens, do back-to-school shopping at Staples, or buy new running shoes at Sports Authority. I make the order on my phone, get a text when my order is ready, and drive to the store with specific directions based on real-time traffic patterns. When I walk into the store, my location-aware store app knows that I'm there and charges my pre-loaded credit card, so I don't even need to stand in line to check out. The store can also send me special deals to increase my basket size. Store format, merchandising, and selection are not as important because I have already done the majority of my shopping.
The Customer Experience Is What Matters
For brick and mortar retailers to maintain a customer base in this economy, physical stores will become increasingly about the experience, according to a recent Sherpa Ventures presentation on the On-Demand Economy.
In the situation above, the store has eliminated what we really don't like about shopping (such as standing in line) and has reduced major expense items (such as merchandising, inventory, and labor) Moreover, retailers strategically offer a service Amazon can't replicate at scale unless we are all willing to have drones above our heads all the time.
The key to providing an intriguing shopping experience is for retailers to dissect and understand the data aggregated in online shopping.
The insights that be gleaned from this experience are powerful. Retailers can better understand what items are "list" shopping vs. "impulse" shopping.
Grocery stores have known the differences between list shopping and impulse shopping for a long time. That's why milk is in the back and chips are in the front. For specialty retailers, customer insights may provide additional consumer understanding that may further refine what products are carried and how they are displayed.
The ability to better integrate the benefits of online and offline shopping makes the experience more enjoyable for the consumer and gives retailers better insight into what customers want and where they want to buy it. All that enables retailers to better customize each consumer's shopping experience. By focusing on making each consumer's shopping experience unique, retailers are ensured more retention and growth.
To be sure, delivering such a customer experience is not easy. It requires significant retooling of stores, which requires capital and time from margin-challenged retailers. Providing such a customer experience also requires an omnichannel approach to sales. Retailers must think about online and offline implications of the buying process and understand what their customers what.
The economy is quickly changing and to keep up retailers must take part in the evolution.
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