A couple of years ago, I posted a small blurb on Fast Company's blog about how customer expectations of offline retail are being shaped by their online shopping experiences. Last month, Business Week published an article pretty much to the same effect:
"The Internet hasn't destroyed brick-and-mortar retailing, as many once feared. But has it ever changed consumer behavior. Across the U.S., stores are playing catch-up with shoppers habituated not only to the speed and convenience of purchasing online but also to the control it gives them."
Here's my in-store experience wish list:
1. Cross-selling of relevant and complementary products (if you like this, you will also like that and that)
2. Customer reviews. Somewhat counterintuitively, many product categories will benefit from negative reviews just as well as from the positive ones. Negative reviews help buyers overcome the "paradox of choice" and make up their mind faster instead of abandoning the purchase altogether. Plus, less post-purchase remorse and fewer returns. I would especially love a way to check GameSpot reviews before plunking another $50 for a game.
3. Online ordering + in-store pick-up.
4. Full product info look-up, including the manuals.
5. Bookmarking / "save for later" functionality.
Retailers gotta act quick if they want to have some control over the converging experiences. In a few years, people will be carrying web browsers in their pockets and won't be needing all this retail innovation. Then they would go to Barnes & Noble to browse books and order the ones they like on Amazon right from the store.
On a related note, I really like the idea behind Target Lists.