As a brand marketer, I’m a big believer in ‘branding the customer experience’, not just selling the service.”- John Sculley

As we witness and influence the evolution of retail, it is becoming increasingly apparent that our models of retail, silos or channels in approach, is fast becoming yesterday’s news.

Today, we think about designing the customer experience in the context of their interaction with all aspects of the retailer’s brand. Designing new shopping experiences often commences by taking the classic product push approach and turning it completely on its axis.

Designing these new shopping experiences is not just about immediate sales, but about creating opportunities to facilitate impulse purchases, up sell and cross sell.

Those of us who think Store of the Future are to be congratulated for their vision and innovation – thinking of tomorrow while building today, is an absolute prerequisite for business fitness. However, we would suggest very respectfully this implies one channel above all else.

Really, the challenge is in constructing an insightful, customer seamless shopping experience that integrates the brand, pre-sales, online/instore, transactional, and post sale goals. The experiences must converge to promote discovery instore and the continuation of the sales process at home or on the go.

What does this say about retail as we know it? While the jewel in our retail crown will always be the shop, retail is increasingly about the interconnected brand offering with all channels showing capacity to promote, communicate, educate and sell. That the focus on presales apparent through the myriad of touch points a consumer has to be in touch with regarding the branded offer, is every bit as important as the relative and interconnected online and store experience, as is the post sales experience.

There is no off or online discussion really or even that omni-channel/omni-commerce exists – it is all just simply retail. Focus on pre-sales and post sales will increase, the role of the database is and will become increasingly vital, and marketing will focus on far more targeted below the line activity.

The physical shop becomes increasingly about brand inspiration, exploration, discovery, and the actual sales and economics are spread across the channel through s-commerce, pre-sales, online, physical shops, and post sales. We start to consider both the organisational structure required, the format of distribution and how to maximise reach within the parameters of our thinking and our corresponding budgets.

Are physical store rentals – where more than 90 per cent of sales historically occur, sustainable when the mix of sales changes to be across virtual, digital and physical brand portals?

Are classic retail distribution models the most appropriate and the best use of available capital, when the showroom/brand statement necessary will demand capital to be spent in an integrated technology infused experience? This is while customers will spend across all channels.

Of course the information systems, supply channel, distribution, staff knowledge, design, customer service, and processes have to be increasingly peerless across all brand touch points from channel to brand. This is for another article.

Happy ‘Fit’ retailing.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of retail consulting company, Retail Doctor Group. He specialises in the development and implementation of retail and franchise strategies. Brian can be contacted on (02) 9460 2882 or brian@retaildoctor.com.au.

First published on the 20th of February 2015 on Inside Retail