3 min read

☕️ Retail needs a digital wake-up call, but not the one you’re thinking about

☕️ Retail needs a digital wake-up call, but not the one you’re thinking about
Photo by Stu Moffat / Unsplash

The digital wake-up call you need is maybe not the one you think. You are worried that you don’t own the platform where your customer experience and brand are dissected every second. But what is the option anyway? PR your way back to relevance?

That’s the thing you see. Most companies want to be in charge of how customers see them, Mad Men-style. But digital toothpaste has been out of the tube for many years. It’s not going back in. And you’re not going to beat Facebook, Google, or Tencent at big data at this point any time soon, either. Blaming your IT department because customer service chatbots and in-store augmented reality are the new connected fridges doesn’t help either.

Instead of making excuses, why not relax and face that your primary problem is your customer experience sucks?

This is good news because you can do something about it. A collective epiphany to offer your company: digital is not about digital. Digital is about customer experience. So what if you depend on Google maps for customers to find your stores? On Facebook for talking to them? On Alibaba to process the payments? They are just the new Yellow Pages, the new TV, and the new VISA. You were not in charge of these old parts of the ecosystem, weren’t you? Well, you’re not in order of the new ones either. Get. Over. It.

I’m not only offering a stoic approach to your inevitable demise. I’m helping you face the real problem. Your customer experience is something that you can work on. You might even remember how to be good at it (some people in your organization will look for sure).

I visited Starbucks Reserve Roastery store in Shanghai yesterday and was thrilled, as you should be if you are a multinational retail struggling with digital.

They have salespeople taking care of customers around specific perimeters of the brand (no digital goggles required):

shanghai starbucks - innovation copilots 2

They have customers narrating the in-store experience on their get-go social platform (they even offer WiFi, as you might know):

shanghai starbucks - innovation copilots 3

But of course, they are on top of their game and bring the right experience at the right moment:

shanghai starbucks - innovation copilots 4

They probably even push the envelope a bit too far if you ask me:

shanghai starbucks - innovation copilots 5

This is the new Apple store.

They’re not grasping for digital, letting PR guys copy and paste Harvard Business Review ´insights’:

shanghai tami robotics - innovation copilots

So why would you?

It’s true; digital is not a fad, and it’s essential. But for most multinationals, it’s about getting your head back in your core business, not paying attention to the CES Las Vegas latest voice-activated shoe polisher and or dragging execs in ‘learning expeditions’ searching for the next big idea and or acting like BMW because you want a piece of the recurring digital revenue cake.

Relax. Go back to basics.

The answer to digital will come from your culture, not by making your culture more digital. The biggest mistake you’ve made is letting digital companies become better than you at your own game. This is where you need a robust and collective wake-up call. You had stores before Apple, weren’t you?

Remember why the stores have been around first (hint: not just to allow customers to get goods and pay)?

Because if you think of your stores as the end of your supply chain, then, in that case, digital killed you yesterday.