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The National Retail Federation’s annual Big Show is a visual overload of the latest and greatest retail technologies. I was fortunate to attend this year and came away with these thoughts:
Retail has become lower touch and no touch. I viewed the emergence of touch-screen vending machines that interact with you as a consumer. You have the option on one that was in Microsoft’s booth to see a large scale nutrition guide for the product prominently displayed after choosing the product. In the supermarket category, you now have the ability to self scan a full cart of groceries with a higher accuracy than when a clerk scans them. Not sure who handles the bagging at the end, though.
There were several vendors showing virtual dressing rooms. The thought behind this is that you get your body scanned and the virtual dressing rooms allows you “try on” different selections without having to get undressed. One even featured a POS right the in the virtual dressing room. The clerk then pulls the purchased items and you proceed to the checkout.
As I laid awake in bed last thinking about the changing landscape of retail, my takeaways are this: I started working in retail in the early ‘80s long before the advent of e-commerce. I was a commissioned sales person so I did my best to find what was best for the customer and recommend additional items. It was high touch. I built a loyal following because of the interaction and care that I took with my customers.
All of the low/no touch shopping through e-commerce and now adding lower touch at brick-and-mortar leaves me feeling sad. We all live on our smartphones and communicate through social media and texting. We rarely even have conversations on the actual phone. We are losing less and less touch with other humans.
I like to shop local where I have the opportunity to meet the owner of the shop and have special attention from the sales team. But I also shop equally as often online and have even started doing my grocery shopping online so all that I have to do is put the groceries away at home.
My hope is that we retain a nice mixture of both.