As Charles Darwin might say, the traditional retail sector is going through some serious evolution right now. The situation may seem dire judging by one headline after another that predicts nothing but doom and gloom for some of the most iconic companies in the world.
But if you read between the lines, what you’re really seeing is a very natural evolution, one that promises to revamp the retail industry and the shopping experience for the better in ways we could have only dreamed just a few years ago.
Economists call this evolutionary effect “creative destruction,” a natural process by which technology replaces legacy operating models. That’s illustrated by the fact that Wal-Mart, one of the most important brick-and-mortar retailers, is doing gangbuster business online and continues to invest in making its online presence top-notch.
Brick & Mortar Is Still Being Built
Given Wal-Mart’s newfound reliance on “hybrid-commerce,” it may be easy for some to declare the end of the brick-and-mortar retail model, which would mean the end of consumer shopping habits as we have known it for millennia. That would be premature, if not outright wrong.
The fact is, in many sectors, investment in retail stores is actually growing. You need to look no further than Apple and its famous investment in its brick-and-mortar retail operations, which have become go-to destinations for many shoppers.
Three Paths to the Retail Renaissance
So what’s really happening? To us it’s obvious that creative destruction does not actually destroy but transform. Yes, there will be retailers who do not survive this transformation.
However, in their place will be new, more innovative retailers whose presence will herald the renaissance in brick-and-mortar retail that will usher in a new golden age for shopping and for shoppers.
We see this renaissance taking three distinct paths to success.
- One, retailers will have to deliver an extremely personalized shopping experience, a la the famous scene in “Minority Report” but perhaps a bit less creepy.
- Another path could very well be ultra-specialization, where stores really focus on delivering a few things they’re great at instead of being everything to everyone – i.e., more boutique-like experiences, less department store-like experiences.
- Finally, a third path may be singularity, where stores deliver a seamless in-store digital experience – just go to any Apple store and you’ll see how this works in the real world.
This renaissance will go hand-in-hand with the modernization of retail facilities management operations to support the new model(s). This is a necessary step to make the renaissance successful because it acknowledges that well-managed facilities and locations are vital to an optimized customer experience. And this is the renaissance that ServiceChannel has been leading through our facilities’ service automation platform.
Brand Uptime Drives Company Performance
ServiceChannel describes this phenomenon as “Brand Uptime,” which is a new way to think about physical infrastructure and how it impacts, positively or negatively, overall company performance and, more importantly, how a customer experiences a company’s brand.
For a retailer, a positive customer experience corresponds directly on its corporate results. And in a retail environment where the experience is paramount, Brand Uptime may be the ultimate KPI for any facilities management team.
Thus, the FMs who are on our FM platform today are avant garde in their field, and serve as the inspiration for further innovation. Similarly, we believe that the retailers who will lead the retail renaissance are the ones who are able to inspire shoppers to visit their stores.
Without this inspiration, inertia wins where click-of-a-button desktop or mobile phone shopping will suffice and continue to wreak havoc on traditional retailers.
These are more than just interesting trends for us at ServiceChannel. Retail was the first breakthrough sector for our platform, and it continues to be an important customer segment. So, when we talk about the future of retail, one thing is for sure: that future will be coming to a store near you.