When it was first invented, the department store model changed the way consumers shopped, introducing ready-to-use products for the first time. At the time, shopping in a department store was a more convenient, frictionless experience than the old model (buying materials that then needed to be custom tailored).
A similar change occurred when online shopping became a reality. E-commerce and digital innovation have influenced consumer behavior to the point that the department store experience feels out of sync with the way we prefer to shop now.
That’s because not only has the internet made consumers more self-sufficient, it has also made us less patient. As consumers we demand that products be easy to find, that information is readily available, and that we not necessarily be forced to interact with an associate if we prefer not to (or, at the very least, not until we’re ready to check out). Because infinite options are available at our fingertips, we’re more likely to be selective and less likely to settle for the brands a particular store chooses to carry.
In other words, the traditional department store experience is full of friction. Which section or floor to find what you’re looking for? Where to pay? How to avoid the crowds? What to do if a size, color, or product is unavailable?
When strategically employed, digital technology can help reduce these friction points and improve the shopping experience for customers.