How To Make Your Store a Future Store (Part 2)

A Store of the Future Initiative ends up with a physical store, but it’s the capabilities you put into your retail operations that deliver an enhanced experience that are the most valuable to customers, employees, and shareholders. Every retailer should keep an eye on the future and have a way to vet new ideas. Here’s how to think about your store as a Store of the Future.



In the last post, we learned that a Store of the Future Initiative contains both design and build elements. This post will focus on how a Store of the Future Initiative uses different principles to help shape ideas, focus efforts and help transform retail operations. Let’s look at a real-world example to compare approaches.

The Opportunity

Suppose that, through customer research, you learn that many fashion-seeking women avoid spontaneous shopping. When people see something in the window they like, but have to go into the store to find out if the color, size, or pattern of an outfit they might want is available, they, fear their time may be wasted. The Experience Design team comes up with an idea for a mobile app that lets these shoppers scan any item at the front of the store to instantly and easily check availability for their size, favorite colors, etc. The app could also alert an associate to bring right-fit options right to the shopper, suggest what else in the store might complement an intended purchase, learn what a friend might like as a gift, or flag duplicates from being purchased.

Standard Principles Store of the Future (SOF) Principles
Research misses what customers really want because its too busy thinking about how to win more sales. Research focuses on customers’ unmet needs as its normal way of sense making.
There’s no money in the budget for anything new, so the app idea isn’t pursued at all. The app idea is put through rapid prototyping (done on paper at very low cost) to see how it might work and what else it might be capable of.
Bringing stock up to the front of the store just in case a customer wants to buy is too time-consuming and expensive. Also, you have to put what customers don’t want back, so that’s double the work without a guaranteed sale. Using Journey Maps and observational research methods, researchers learn that some customers buy more if they can do it in less time. Rapid prototyping and role-plays are used to define, then refine best practices for moving stock.
Since we can’t share friends’ information with shoppers without their permission, we don’t want to expose ourselves legally to that kind of liability. Adding social sharing means friends can help friends shop even if they aren’t physically present. Letting two friends connect their social account—and the purchase history that the retailer supplies—limits the legal issues and introduces a new collaborative capability that may increase sales by reducing doubt at the point of purchase and through gift giving.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.”
—Peter Drucker

Making Your Store a Future Store

The process can begin fairly quickly with an existing store, using it as a prototype. You can develop a well-defined project that starts to yield benefits within one quarter. Here are several steps to get your Store of the Future initiative started:

·  Define the Initiative. Declare what’s in and out of bounds, what the learning and performance objectives are, and set the team requirements.
·  Find a Sponsor. Likely candidates include a combination of marketing and operations leaders, the CFO, and even the CEO/President.
·  Select a Location. You can start with a whiteboard in the stockroom or an on-line service (Basecamp, Podio, Trello) to organize your ideas and track assignments. With more resources, you may be able to have space assigned where teams can meet, prototypes can be built and customers can ‘test’ what you create.
·  Design your Dashboard. Many people will want to know how you’re doing, what you’re spending, and what they’re getting from the investment. Showing them a dashboard right from the start tells them you’re conscientious about supplying hard business data, not just ‘playing in the lab’.
·  Pick Your Team. Make sure to include collaboratively minded people who don’t think like you do! You’ll have the most enlightening design sessions and outputs when individuals from different departments with a desire to overcome organizational barriers get together.

“No matter how hard you try or how much you spend, 
your brand can’t be any better than what your customers experience.”
—Mike Wittenstein

In a Store of the Future Initiative, many experiments can go on at the same time under one roof—and under control. The issues around each solution and the details of how various elements combine to produce better experiences can be worked out before innovations and experiences are made available to the public.

More detailed information on this topic will be available in an upcoming white paper and an eBook.

About Future Stores: Now in its second year, Future Stores is the only conference that focuses on the challenges faced by store, operations, IT, cross-channel and retail customer experience executives trying to bridge the gap between the digital and store experience. Follow this link to download the agenda.
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About the Author

During 25 years in 25 countries with 400+ companies, Mike and his clients have co-created over $1.5 billion in measurable impact with his guidance on their experience and business designs . Under the Storyminers brand, he helps retailers design and deploy Store-of-the-Future initiatives that create new business opportunities and rekindle investor interest. Mike is a top 25 customer experience influencer (as ranked by SAP and MindTouch), a global speaker, and founding member of Global CX Panel and the CXPA.