A Dutch bricks & mortar bookseller has implemented Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in two of its stores to help it manage inventory — and to help customers shop for books.
I find both applications interesting, but it’s the latter that truly rocks, and here’s why: once you’ve used Amazon’s search capabilities, hunting for a book in a traditional shop seems awfully combersome.
So to my way of thinking, any retailer that’s maintaining bricks & mortar outlets should be looking at ways to implement the customer-friendly aspects of online shopping in its physical locations. Being able to search for a product on an in-store kiosk is a prime example. Combine that with the capability to pinpoint exactly where that product is in the store and you’ve mimicked one of the major conveniences of an online store.
I mean, how many times have you stood in line at a customer service desk in a bookstore, you finally get a clerk to help you, the clerk looks up a title on a computer, leads you to the shelf, and then you stand there while the clerk spends another five minutes hunting for the book?
That’s pretty much the brick & mortar book-shopping experience.
Whereas with Amazon, you run a search on a title, click on “add to shopping cart” and you’re done. Don’t even have to enter your credit card info if you’ve set up an account.
The disadvantages of online shopping are that you can’t actually touch an item before you buy, and you usually have to pay shipping. Brick & mortars win hands down on those two counts. Bricks & mortars also have human beings to give you face time should the technology fail you, which is a huge plus when you need it.
So why not build on those strengths, but at the same time become more like an online store?
Another example: why shouldn’t I be able to shop at Gap.com from within a conventional Gap store?
No reason, except that Gap execs haven’t considered the possibility — or grasped what it would mean to its customers . . .
(RFID story found via Publisher’s Lunch.)
[tags] books, bookstores, online shipping, retailing [/tags]