Do we really want contactless stores?
Its easy to think that the Covid experience will hasten the evolution of tech driven contactless stores.
But, think about it - what is a contactless store going to look and feel like? Isn’t it going to be like making a brick & mortar store more like the cold analytical antiseptic Amazon online experience?
That’s not the shopping experience I am looking for when I venture into a store. In RSR's recent study, The New Retail Model (June 2020), they surveyed retailers across the spectrum of retail types and sizes. They found that 75% of retail "winners" say that customer facing employees have a strong impact on sales. What’s going to happen when you take customer facing employee out of the equation?
Then think about the kind of companies that will be able to afford this new contactless technology. Only the big guys. So that the divide between haves and have-nots will inadvertently result in tech enabled contactless shopping experiences (at the "haves") vs. personal shopping experiences (at the "have-nots"). That sounds like a potential winner for the mom & pops and smaller regional retailers.
The Covid crisis will hasten the demise of still more retailers (but they were not healthy before the virus hit). This will have an impact on store associates - and maybe have a silver lining for us shoppers. With more limited retail employment opportunities, the best associates will rise to the top and the poor performers will be looking for other opportunities. Which hopefully will lead to stronger and more differentiated customer experiences for shoppers.
With apologies to MAGA, I would like to see us move to MRPA - Make Retail Personal Again .