Remember when a trip to the store could yield a new discovery -- an unplanned purchase but one that delighted the customer?
Ecommerce handles specific shopping needs seamlessly and efficiently: Search for “motorized pedal exerciser” and buy it in less than three minutes.
But so-called "discovery" shopping — such as figuring out what to get your hard-to-shop-for great aunt for her 90th birthday — is much easier to do through brick and mortar browsing.
Selling discovery experiences
The world of in-store commerce offers shoppers an experience, an interaction with others that can't be replicated online.
In the best-case scenario, the experience is enjoyable and memorable, one that a shopper wants to repeat with that retailer and emulate at others.
No matter how good a recommendation engine or a chatbot is, the feeling a shopper gets from finding a perfect product can only come from shopping in a physical store.
That is, until an online retailer aggregates its collected data and presents it in a physical store as a curated collection to reach a specific audience.
If an online behemoth parlayed all the knowledge it has gleaned from the data it has gathered about its ecommerce shoppers, that retailer could be very well positioned against its competitors, online as well as brick and mortar.
Amazon has recently opened a handful of Amazon 4-Star physical locations, which are designed with discovery in mind. All the items are top-rated, and the selection will change frequently, depending on their customers' ratings.
The first, in the SoHo section of New York City, offers at-a-glance products that are "popular in SoHo," "frequently bought together" and "most wished for," among other categories.
Amazon can easily put these displays together due to the data it collects on its online shoppers. And that data collection continues to grow offline.
Amazon-exclusive products are also available, and Prime members get the Amazon price, while non-members pay MSRP. Signing up for Prime in the store not only provides customers lower pricing, but also adds to Amazon's information database.
Shoppers can see how many ratings a product has received and what the average rating is. Others have reviews displayed nearby.
The combination of a physical location and all that aggregated data is a fierce combination.
However, "discovery shopping" is more than simply sorting through trends and selecting from the most popular items.
If that were the case, small, specialized shops and boutiques would not be frequented, shunned for larger, on-trend department stores.
But the opposite is largely the case.
Discoverers aim to find the one-of-a-kind for a more personal gift or to satisfy their own personal taste. That's more likely to be found in a shop on Main Street than online, because it is not mass produced, so it therefore can't have hundreds of reviews.
In the end, Amazon's strategy for its physical stores, and any others like it, will mirror that of large department stores that have built a decent ecommerce channel.
Those stores, such as Macy's, Target and Kohl's, can also look at their data, slice it up regionally and offer only those products based on that data.
While not quite as personal as the local shop on the corner, there's a huge opportunity for larger companies to meet their customer needs more precisely.