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Goodbye Impulse, Mission Shopping is King

by Robert Hetu  |  December 30, 2015  |  Submit a Comment

Changes in shopper behavior are permanently transforming the retail industry.  Of the many drivers of this transformation none has spawned more digital transactions than the specificity of consumer wants.  The ubiquitous availability of images, descriptions, prices and reviews allows for a more precise identification of wants.  This in turn leads to more singular or targeted transactions through digital channels.  A child provides a Christmas wish list, a parent takes that list and places order.  This happens on the website, mobile site or mobile app, perhaps using a wishlist feature.  This is the most simple and effective shopping process since the invention of the Sears catalog.  The major difference between the past and present is the aspect of browsing and making impulse purchases.  No wonder customers who shop both online and in store are the best retail customers.

The traditional role of the retailer as the expert on products, trends and styles has significantly eroded.  Consumers learn about and experience products through social and other forms of media and then focus on price and availability to make the acquisition decision.  Services such as Amazon Prime further enable purchases of singular items as the consumer is not pushed to meet shipping minimums.  It’s rare that a consumer will browse an eCommerce site without a mission in mind, nor do they dawdle after completing the mission.  While a physical store shopping trip may also start as a mission, it frequently expands to support other purchases as the shopper’s experience is immersive, providing allure of immediate satisfaction.  This presents a real obstacle for retail sales growth as more digital commerce reduces the amount of impulse purchases.

As there is no indication that this trend will slow, the challenge is how to create a truly immersive digital experience that blends digital and physical.  It brings to mind the old catalog stores like Service Merchandise or Brendle’s, but with a digital service twist.  There is a real opportunity to recreate this expired business model.

service merchandise

Retail executives need to be experimenting now with digitalization strategies.  Could a version of catalog showroom replace small urban stores?  What about in larger formats, could departments make this transformation?  Better find out now.  For the pure play eCommerce retailers the challenges are similar.  Should Amazon open more physical stores?  Yes of course, and they will.  Sorry to say but even with all the video and social content and fancy zooming most eCommerce sites are just electronic catalogs.   But how can the pure digital experience become more immersive than just an electronic catalog? Hurry up virtual reality and internet of things because eCommerce needs you.


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Category: digital-marketing  ecommerce  mobile-and-endpoint-technologies  retail-trends  smart-machines  social-media  technology-and-emerging-trends  

Tags: amazon  consumers  customer-centricity  digital  ecommerce  infocentricity  retail  showrooming  social-media  stores  trends  

Robert Hetu
VP, Analyst Retail
7 years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Bob Hetu is a Research Director with the Gartner Retail Industry Services team. His responsibilities involve tracking the technology markets and trends impacting the broad-based retail merchandising and planning areas. Mr. Hetu is an expert in the areas of brand, vendor and assortment management, merchandise planning, allocation, and replenishment. Read Full Bio

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