Retailers, Open Your Eyes to Apple
Damian is a member of The Motley Fool Blog Network -- entries represent the personal opinion of the blogger and are not formally edited.
The New Digital Consumer
Shopping has always been a form of entertainment for the American consumer. But can this “experience” be replicated with the very portable, very accessible iPhone or iPad? Wandering through small towns, peeking in various retail establishments, partaking in the various “experiences” offered by that particular store or town or strip mall has long been a favorite past-time. Is this “experience” being replaced by the digital experience Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) has engineered for today's consumer? Apple has put into the hands of the consumer devices that allow, from just about anywhere a person travels, the ability to talk, text, purchase, listen to music, play games, study, read, watch movies, take photos and videos, publish, create artwork, manage businesses, start businesses (and probably a few things I can't mention here) all in the name of entertainment.
Consumers still love to find great buys. Shopping at Costco (NASDAQ: COST) they find the opportunity to purchase one-time high-end offerings at reportedly 15% over cost! Consumers love that hunt. The membership aspect of the store gives shoppers the feeling of community. And because they are paying for membership, it gives shoppers another reason to return. Every turn offers the opportunity to sample some of the food offerings for sale in the store and there is always a pile of current summer reads to peruse. Members break from shopping and have a hotdog or slice of pizza and a soft drink. They’ll converse with friends while wandering through aisles all in the name of entertainment. Costco's website also requires membership to make a purchase and many of their online product offerings are only available online. This again creates a sense that you will only find this deal on this site and nowhere else. And yet we have seen over the past several years, a large number of retailers large and small close their doors or liquidate and reposition their brands (ie. Borders, Circuit City, Boyles Furniture, Tweeter, Blockbuster, etc.) because they were unable or unwilling to change for this consumer.
The Digital Shopping Experience
From their choice of digital device, consumers can do all of the above and then some! When they want to shop, not only can they shop for their favorite product, but they can also visit the App Store and shop for the perfect free App from their favorite retailers. This provides a unique, tailored shopping experience. If consumers want to take a break from shopping, they can play any number of free or $0.99 games. Consumers can listen to their favorite music or talk (text) any number of friends. When they’ve had their fill, they can relax while reading any book they want to, or watch their favorite movie. If the consumer tires of the digital shopping experience, they can call on Siri, Yelp, Facebook, or any number of social search Apps to find and learn about the highest rated bricks and mortar experience (restaurants, retail stores, theaters, etc.) in their area or chosen destination.
Eyes Wide Shut
Do retailers know what is going on? They see these iDevices in the hands of these savvy consumers. Retail owners find customers in their stores searching for more information about a product they are trying to sell. They see them typing in product numbers and prices on their phones and comparing information readily available on the internet. Retailers will even introduce new, undiscovered products to a consumer and she will still go home and do additional research before making a purchase.
The challenge for retailers today is to first recognize what is happening. It is important to know that doing things the same won’t necessarily bring in new business the way it has for ten, twenty, or even thirty years of running a successful business. Owners will be lucky even to maintain their existing clientele doing things the same way. Retailers have to create a physical shopping experience with all the same entertainment value and conveniences consumers can obtain from their digital counter-part.
Tickle the Brain of the Digital Shopper
Applebee’s, of parent company DineEquity, Inc. (NYSE: DIN), has for over two years been piloting in various markets an innovative digital menu offering from ESP Digital Media. For $0.99 (which is added to your bill) a small tablet device on the table provides gaming enjoyment for the little (or not so little) ones at the table. Diners also have the ability to summon their wait staff, order drinks and appetizers, and pay their bill remotely. This tickles the brain of the new digital consumer, and may even give them a reason to experience Applebee’s over the many choices they have.
The bricks and mortar retailer must accept that consumers want instant information without pressured sales tactics, space to make an informed educated purchase, time to consider the financial aspect of the purchase, and to feel engaged, entertained and relaxed in the process. All which can be done from anywhere with any iDevice. Retailers who can successfully create this “experience” in their stores and on their websites will win the battle for the attention of this new digital consumer. They want consistent, unobstructed, immediate access to information in a relaxed fun atmosphere. Are your retailers providing that?
Dubbles has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Costco Wholesale, and Starbucks. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple, Costco Wholesale, and Starbucks. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.If you have questions about this post or the Fool’s blog network, click here for information.