This step is near and dear to my heart since back in 2012, I suggested the same thing to my employer at the time, Estee Lauder Companies. Working in brand marketing and strategy meant I would often visit retail locations so I could observe the customers behaviors first hand and also observe how store representatives were interacting with our guests. A number of observations led me to ask:
1. Why do people actually need to walk out with a bag? It is uncomfortable to hold and might weigh me down while walking around or running other errands
2. Why do employees need to dedicate time to restocking or checking for inventory in the back when they should be focused on delivering an experience that online cannot?
3. How much retail space is being dedicated to inventory? That storage space must be very expensive for stores that are in prime foot-traffic areas
In October 2017, Nordstrom finally announced it! They are testing out “Nordstrom Local” in West Hollywood, California, which will be a small footprint inventory-less store that will be strictly focused on providing exceptional service. It does also offer in-store pickup of items ordered online, so it still is not 100% what I envision but it is a whole lot closer. Not to mention more economical! The store is 3,000 square feet, compared to 140,000 square feet for the average department store. “The store does offer customers personal stylists, tailoring services, and manicure appointments. Nordstrom Local will also serve wine, beer, espresso drinks, and cold-pressed juices.” Finally Nordstrom is embracing the competitive advantage that in-store offers to a world that can leverage the simplicity of online purchases and direct to home shipments. No longer do online and brick-and-mortar need to be at odds with each other. Instead, companies can realize that revenue still feeds the same bottom line so it is most desirable to get all your resources playing in harmony with each other. This is the start of a wonderful new beginning and I hope other retailers evaluate how this approach may benefit them too. Once that happens, true efficiencies of scale can start to be explored for immediate direct to consumer delivery. Offline retail is not dead; its purpose is simply changing. Finally!
*Did you know that despite how innovative Bonobos’s business model is, when they opened their first lookshops they actually paid store employees on commission for in-store sales?! For a store that is trying to reinvent online vs in-store shopping, you would think they would have inherently known not to stick to the traditional retail model compensation method. It took a little while, but they thankfully did away with that and realigned the interests of their brand representatives, customers, and company as a whole.