As technology has advanced, so has the experience of shopping. New distribution channels have provided new opportunities for consumers. People no longer shop only in stores, out of catalogs and from websites. Thanks to virtual reality, people can now shop in an entirely new dimension, and it is helping enhance the experience by making it more personal and realistic. At the same time, avatars are also beginning to populate the virtual landscape and are becoming powerful economic consumers.
If most people today were to walk into a typical clothing store, what would they find? They would find the fitting rooms to be little closets in the back, with no technology in the service of the customer. This is largely because the store designers themselves are stuck in the world they knew before new distribution channels became popular. But things are beginning to change.
A couple years ago, we saw Accenture come out with the Online Wardrobe, a smart closet which uses sensors, tagging and tracking technologies to keep track of the clothing you already own, and helps you buy coordinating items, either online or in physical stores. This way a new way of connecting the real/physical and virtual worlds.
An extraordinary revolution is taking place on the front end of retailing. Now, time and digital technology are combining to alter the entire pre-purchase and purchase process. The payment process is also being revolutionized. People can “bump” their mobiles and transfer money, and swipe their mobiles and purchase products. Social media and networks pass along recommendations and tweet product experience and preferences. Advertising avenues and messaging are multiplying rapidly, and and the disintermediation of traditional channels is rampant.
However, as technology rapidly advances, it will be increasingly important to pay particular attention to the experience of the purchase (and not just the technology), since it is the experience, after all, that seems to generate the long-term satisfaction.