Retail Singularity

I don’t know about you, but I get a little tired of hearing experts say we are hitting a new tipping point or a new paradigm shift, which is why I’ve been using the term singularity lately. This term has bubbled up in some online discussions in the past year and used in a different context. The one I am referring to is where the laws of physics break down in the center of a black hole, for example, or at the big bang.

It’s not a perfect parallel, but it’s useful and not overused.
The singularity I see taking place today is that shopping patterns and the way retailers respond to them have changed so dramatically in the last two to three years that all the rules have changed.

I have spent a lot of time developing a path to purchase scenario that breaks down the stages of the shopper journey into four concepts: research, in-store, transact and post-sale.

I’ve attached numerous business processes and technologies to each of the four stages in the shopper journey to help retailers create strategies to maximize opportunities and exert influence.

The only problem is that the shopping journey isn’t linear. Entry points are everywhere and new steps emerge every day.

Some experts now say the shopper journey is chaotic, but even this concept has a fatal flaw. The shopper journey is confusing only to retailers, which is an understandable reaction when all the rules of business break down and the path to purchase becomes non-linear.

However, the path to purchase is not confusing to shoppers. It is just the new normal. It is how smart shoppers take advantage of all the tools at their disposal in a post-social media, post-smartphone and post-mobile app world.

The clear message is we are not in Kansas anymore. With a nod to Captain Kirk, we are exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new channels and technologies, and boldly going where no retailer has gone before.

Maybe paradigm shift and tipping point are over-used at the moment, but it doesn’t mean they are inaccurate. As Sigmund Freud once said in another context, sometimes a cigar really is a cigar.

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