My iPhone alarm goes off. I open one eye to turn it off. While still waking up and still horizontal (portrait orientation-lock changed my life), I repeat this ritual: scan my email, a semi-conscious cyclopian student of retail. With zero filters to block the flow of information from directly flooding my neocortex, I thumb through a half dozen retail industry news feeds that say the same thing: Online, Ecomm, Social Media, Big Data…. blah, blah, blah…zzzz. Hit the snooze button for nine more.
So, yeah- the shiny-bright hipness of online retail has gone from ‘ooh-aah’ to ‘ho-hum.’
In fact, I predict that there’s going to be a temporary lull in the online vs bricks & mortar wars, as customers tire from the 10-year run of online growth and as online retail has a momentary slowdown in innovation. While there will continue to be growth on the mobile channel (as the last of the species get a smart phone), true online growth resulting from innovation will slump. Customers will see new in-store innovation as their new (temporary) favorite, as retailers try new things to make their stores relevant (again).
But, trend-wise, this online growth lull will be temporary. The mega-trend of online retail will again come rushing back as new technologies (and the novelty that goes with them) enter the fray and then the mainstream. However, this time, it will be a more powerful blow than the rope-a-dope some retailers are still recovering from. Expect to see virtual retailing and search engine-based (google) retail activation shift the ball further away from bricks & mortar.
The challenge for everyone is to embrace change: for designers to see “online” as a viable experience design medium and to engage in creating true hybrid in-store experiences (both digital/virtual and tangible). Moreover, as an industry we need to develop a more flexible paradigm than the “Prototype” approach. There really is no such thing as a retail strategy, let alone a design, that lasts 5-7 years anymore. Really.
Off goes the alarm again. A new one appears: Gamification…zzz..zzz..z- WHAT??
Time to get up. Carpe Diem, breakthrough ideators. No time for the snooze button.