Apple and Target retail guru Ron Johnson: Commerce at home will change the way we shop

·4 min read

The future of shopping will not only be conducted online, on an app or delivered via drone. The store of the future is your living room.

As we start to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear to me that the way we shop will never be the same. A recent McKinsey survey found that 75% of U.S. consumers have tried new shopping behaviors during the pandemic. This heralds a sea change for the retail sector.

Retail is always being disrupted. How we shop is constantly evolving and new, disruptive channels emerge when technology advances, consumer demand and innovative thinking align. Specialty stores became big-box retail, which led to off-price brands, outlet malls and, eventually, online shopping and e-commerce. Today, a new channel in retail is emerging. I call it “Commerce at Home.”

Think about it. Over the last several years, we have turned our homes into hotel rooms, our cars into taxis and our spare bedrooms into fitness studios. These are all examples of “Commerce at Home.” Consumers are demanding high-quality service, premier products tailored to them, with comfort and convenience they can count on, and these innovative companies are meeting this moment.

Consumer preferences are also driving the evolution of retail we see today. E-commerce now represents 27% of all U.S. retail sales, according to Digital Commerce 360, and in 2021, Coresight Research data estimates that 2.5 physical retail stores will close for every one that opens.

I believe that bringing the entire retail experience to the home is the next frontier for “Commerce at Home.” As consumers, we are always making a choice. Should I go to a store, or should I shop at home? This question has been given greater weight because of the pandemic, where health and safety have been a key decision point for families. In addition, Pew estimates that 71% of the U.S. labor force now has an option for remote work. This question has largely been answered. People want to shop at home.

There will always be a place for brick-and-mortar stores–and believe me, I love stores­–but when given the opportunity to buy the products they love accompanied by a high-touch, in-home experience tailored just for them, that’s what consumers will choose.

Why is that? Because we crave personalized experiences and even the most tech-savvy among us sometimes need help. When I worked for Apple for nearly 20 years and helped create the Apple retail experience, one of the most frequent compliments I heard from customers leaving the Genius Bar was: “I wish I could take you home with me.” This is now possible with “Commerce at Home.”

Beloved, premium brands deserve a customer experience that matches the quality of their products. A customer should feel joy, satisfaction and thrill when receiving products purchased online. Set-up should be as easy as in the store, led by an expert. Too often, this is not possible with traditional e-commerce. Purchase your next phone–in many ways the hub of our personal and professional lives–and it arrives in a cardboard box, sitting on the doorstep with an 800 number for support.

For many years, customers had to choose between convenience and a high-quality experience. The choice between shopping online or in the store meant sacrificing one of these prized values for the other. We’ve learned that we shouldn’t have had to make these choices.

Today’s consumers have zero tolerance for a poor experience and the expectation of convenience–fast, on-demand, and personalized to me–is the rule rather than the exception. We should celebrate this change. Customers shouldn’t have to prioritize comfort and convenience over a rewarding experience. With “Commerce at Home,” they no longer have to.

“Commerce at Home” for retail means bringing what customers love of the store experience to the convenience of online shopping. From your screen and through your doorstep. This revolution of retail is happening in your living room.

Ron Johnson is Founder and CEO of Enjoy Technology, where he is pioneering a disruptive new channel in retail and helping consumer brands reimagine their last mile with speed, convenience and the best of a retail store. Earlier in his career, Ron helped create the Apple Retail experience and led Target’s move toward affordable design. Ron has been disrupting and transforming retail his entire career.

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