sales | April 30, 2013

Experience First—Product Second: Doug Stephens On The New Age Of Retail

We are in the midst of a massive overhaul in retail—one that's turned almost 200 years of traditional sales practice on its head. In an in-depth podcast at GigaOM, retail speaker Douglas Stephens delves into the retail shift that is changing the way we think about shopping. Retail has traditionally followed a product first, experience second model, Stephens says. For most of history, retail outlets existed to display and sell products to the market. But with the rise of e-commerce giants like Amazon, consumers don't need to enter a physical store to purchase products. This change has been eroding the sales model that most retailers have relied on for decades, and has given rise to the experience first, product second model that forward thinking retailers are beginning to implement.

With the e-commerce sector raking in profit that "we couldn't even have fathomed,"  Stephens says traditional brick-and-mortar retailers need to step up their game. While it's not true that all physical retail outlets will go out of business in this new age of consumerism, those who don't adapt to the changing needs of the consumer are certainly at risk. On the bright side, Stephens stresses that "we will always have a need as consumers to go places to shop. I don't think that we shop simply to acquire things any more than we go to restaurants purely for nutrition." He believes there is still a value to the visceral experience of shopping—and companies need to cash in on this.

One way of adapting to a changing retail climate is by embracing—rather than combating—mobile technologies, and making use of big data. Showrooming (which Stephens defines as trying out a physical product in a store and then purchasing it for less money elsewhere online) can be damaging to the profit margins of traditional retailers. Customers are still willing to be loyal to your company if you provide them with an incentive for doing so, however. Harnessing the power of big data information about your consumers' habits can help you to provide them with exactly what they want in the store. Or, in some cases, with something they don't even know they want yet. Forecasting the future is something Stephens is well-known, and highly sought after, for. The founder of Retail Prophet, he's one of the world's foremost retail and consumer futurists. Whether it's in media appearances like this one, his new book The Retail Revival, or his dynamic keynotes, he always has fresh insights to share with his audiences.