John Moore: Retail may change as much or more than technology

By Friday evening, we will no longer live in a world with physical stores but a world where virtually anyone can order practically anything off the internet.

A few years ago, it was unimaginable. Sure, we connected to computers at high school. But I still can’t sell a laptop from “My Little Pregnancy.”

I’m not trying to make a claim about the impact of technology. Technology has always changed retailing. But in the past several years, technology has sped up retail’s shift.

The arrival of Amazon in the late 1990s sent the traditional brick-and-mortar retail industry into a tailspin, forcing retailers to rethink their strategies and to change with the times.

A few years ago, we had a fully-managed call center across the street from the mall that could answer any question you could have for us or for our customers.

Customers would occasionally call in with price questions.

We would direct them to Walmart, JC Penney, Amazon, or another retail player.

That call center is going away.

A few years ago, we had dozens of associates to help customers at our stores.

They could help in-store, but they could also help online from our website.

That call center is going away.

The walking and talking technology behind Amazon might be coming to town.

If Amazon develops its way into assisted shopping, Amazon will likely not need a call center to answer your questions.

If you are a customer of any of Amazon’s competitors, you will likely no longer have a full-fledged call center in town to address your queries.

In addition, Amazon will have more locations around the country, pushing their service nationwide.

When we first opened our store, we had to go to the cleaners or do any of our house work ourselves. I’d walk to the store, get my order, pay a fee and go to my car. I was probably the only person doing that then.

If Amazon is successful in this endeavor, Amazon will probably build more stores.

Using services like Amazon Go stores, Amazon will have their goods ready for delivery. They will ensure that you do not take anything that isn’t yours at the store, and they will have the makings of groceries and fresh products ready for pickup.

I have never liked the thought of having a car in my trunk – especially one that gets parked somewhere else and is not on my return to my place of residence.

I have seen other stores follow this model, and now I wonder how much we can rely on that store to be there.

Brick-and-mortar stores will have to become omni-concepts. If the customer doesn’t touch the merchandise and doesn’t touch their check, what is the point of opening a store?

Brick-and-mortar stores must figure out a way to cater to any and all patrons – old, young, rich or poor.

Online and brick-and-mortar retailing in our “Age of Covid,” will be difficult, but it’s a whole new ballgame.

John Moore is the senior vice president and general manager of The Queen City Market in Cleveland.

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