From being the major millstone around retailers’ necks it has become increasingly recognised that physical stores are the differentiator between established operators and the likes of Amazon and the pure-plays.
But these stores are only of value if they are relevant to the way consumers shop today – in a seamless journey that traverses multiple channels. For many retailers the route to finding this relevance is through store of the future-type initiatives.
Albert Vita, director of in-store experience and visual merchandising at The Home Depot, is the programme manager of the Home Depot pilot store in Atlanta, Georgia and says the focus should be on simplifying things down to working out how to “exponentially grow the core aspects of retail – human connection and value delivery”. The innovations initiated in a store of the future should adhere to these objectives and be seen as something that constantly evolves.
“These stores are a ‘living lab’ with innovations having a decay rate. The moment you put in an innovation the countdown to its obsolescence begins. It is also about experimentation and the more experiments you are willing to try then the more likely you’ll succeed,” he says.
Vita is an advocate of experimentation but he argues it is essential that underneath any innovations included in a store of the future sits a core infrastructure that is future-proofed by being aligned with the likes of a ‘supply chain of the future’, ‘marketing of the future’, and ‘e-commerce of the future’. These supports ensure the store of the future operates within a workable ecosystem and is not let down by any weaker supporting disciplines.