For the last few years there has been a battle between online shopping and stores, with the online warriors getting the upper hand, big time. Why do we shop at stores rather than online? In the case of clothes, it could possibly be because we can try on the goods. We can get tactile and feel items, make sure the garment fits, and check out the quality. This is a critical weapon in the battle. So why on earth did Marks and Spencers in the U.K. close their changing rooms for three days over the Christmas sales? What were they thinking?
Stores and malls are struggling but fighting back by trying to make store shopping more of a social event rather than just a reason to purchase. Teenage kids figured this out some time ago, which is why they hang out at the mall. Maybe we will see more mega social centers (MSC) appearing.
What are mega social centers? They are custom-built technology centers with integrated shopping malls, which could include theaters, sports facilities, skating rinks, restaurants and bars, medical facilities, electronic games centers, etc. These facilities are built into one interconnected location and based around technology! Imagine electronically choosing your outfit—complete with accessories—and having your selected outfit delivered to a dedicated location for you to try on. You could ‘pre-shop’ from home so that your goods are waiting for you to try on. The potential is awesome.
MSCs bring together stores and home shopping into a complementary location. IT to has to look at the bigger picture to ensure that it can meet the challenges ahead and remember that once these technologies have been implemented, ITSM will have a crucial role to play. Tomorrow is here too soon, and even Google specs will be replaced by better technology on short order. So don’t look back or hold off the future. Grab it and embrace it.
Adoption of MSCs could revolutionize where we live. In ancient times, towns or social gatherings were close to water, with well-worn pathways to get from one location to another. Then barge building technology was developed, and new towns grew up around the canals. The same pattern was followed by the railways and freeways. In each of these cases, some towns rejected the new trends and disappeared or became less significant as a result. Building MSCs could have a similar effect. Remote areas could be transformed by building MSCs—bringing jobs, schools, and the other basic facilities that make up new towns.
Are M&S and similar stores in danger of making the same mistakes? That is not recognizing that ‘trying on’ is one of the few advantages that stores have over online shopping. There has been huge negative feedback against M&S, which is a pity because they have top quality goods at competitive prices. The retail industry is in a quandary right now because most large stores also have on-line services so in a way are competing with themselves e.g. where do you spend your marketing budget promoting the stores or the on-line services?
The takeaway is that customer service is, and always will be, paramount, and reputations are easier to lose than gain. So ITSM pros, I challenge you to step up to the plate and embrace the future while maintaining today’s technology.
By the way, I shop at Marks and Spencer and love their café at their Colchester branch.