by: David Polinchock

Interesting article this week in the New York Times Magazine entitled "The End of Shopping." I've included some excerpts here and the link to the full article is below. Of course, for anyone who reads our blog, you've already read about technologies like ScanZOOM, which already allow you to check prices of items using your cellphone.

And while we have been discussing many of the same items as Mr. Kirn, our conclusions are very different. But understand, that the technologies like scanZOOM, shopping bots and internet shopping in general have and will continue to dramatically impact on retail experiences as we know them. But we think that the answer is not in eliminating shopping as we know it today, but making it a more engaging experience. It will involve more brand experiences; more flagshop and pop-up stores and looking at more ways to engage the consumer.

We'll be using this story as a jumping off point for a series of articles about the future of retail and what companies need to do to prepare for this future. To get started, take a look at Experience Manifesto: The Socialization of Real Estate, Experience Manifesto: Retail Experiences/Pop-up Retail, Experience Manifesto: Retail Innovations and Experience Manifesto: Retail News. Yea, I know you all hate homework, but at least it's a quick read!

From The End of Shopping:

Should the "shopping phone" fulfill its promise, deep discounts will become standard and universal, and stores will have to seek an edge in less familiar ways - perhaps by dressing their workers in clingy costumes the way Las Vegas casinos do. That would be one route: pile on the thrills. The other, more likely, more cost-effective route would be to stamp out the thrills entirely and cultivate a dreary bare-bones efficiency that will make today's Wal-Marts seem like Roman palaces and today's Wal-Mart employees look like emperors.

The few employees who remain, that is. In the race to economize spurred by foolproof pricing, stores may come to resemble unmanned warehouses except for a guard or two posted at the door. Select your item, scan it and walk away with it - with the help of a robot if the thing's too big to lift. The infamous cheapskate labor practices that Wal-Mart has been taking such flak for lately may fill people with nostalgia when that time comes. Remember those darling senior citizen "greeters" with their neat little name tags and perky words of welcome? So what if they had lousy health plans? So what if the women earned less than the men? They made the long aisles feel less lonely. They were cute.

Will the high-tech perfection of shopping mean the end of shopping? And what will Americans do with themselves then, with no Sunday-paper circulars to study or holiday sales to stand in endless lines for, plotting their course through the electronics aisle to the stockpile of $99 digital cameras that went for $220 the day before and will go back up tomorrow? Without all that hustle, drama and suspense, why should customers even bother to leave their houses?

Should the cellphone and the Internet finally level the retail playing field and make searchable every price tag on the continent, there will be no bad deals anymore and no more good deals, just equal, efficient transactions among machines whose screens will be able to tell their users everything except why shopping was fun once and now it's not. Now that it has turned into buying and nothing else.  

Link: The End of Shopping - New York Times.

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