In a NYC neighborhood becoming synonymous with experimental retail installations, Soho provides a living laboratory for observation of human shopping behavior. During my recent visit, UNIQLO was a clear winner, sporting lines of shoppers making purchases from a store that had very little in the way of overt technology on display. While nearby two different H&M storefronts were neat and quiet, almost undisturbed by customers. The Amazon 4-Star store was very busy with curious shoppers. It’s very nice bathroom facility was getting regular use, but the cash registers were not ringing. The Nike flagship store was surprisingly quiet, I didn’t observe any customers using the basketball court or arcade style machines. On each of its many floors I observed shoppers making purchases but didn’t see any utilization of in store technology such as scanning.
Overall, my conclusion is that merchandising prowess, attentive associates and interesting experiences, not technology, were generating sales. Kiosks, interactive displays, tablets and other gadgets sat idly by while consumers interacted with knowledgeable associates and attractive product displays. Physical retailing success is still driven by meeting the needs of customers. Gartner describes these as three distinct groups, the Basics, the Enhancers, and the Personalizers.
Implementation of technology in retail will only be successful when it helps customers to have a more fulfilling experience based on their expectations.