Ecommerce finally moves forward

Ecommerce may be finally stepping into a new era. In 1999, a group of colleagues and I built an ecommerce site for a wallpaper retailer. Sadly, not much on the front end design of Ecommerce sites has changed since then; scroll down, find a product, add to cart and keep shopping. Yawn… wake me when it gets fun. Innovation for the most part has been focused on the backend with the obvious goal of selling stuff as quickly and easily as possible.

Personalization comes to life…

Gucci Live

However, Gucci’s new personalized video shopping may have just changed all that (No yawn)! Ecommerce efforts in social media (Pinterest, Instagram, Tik Tok) have given new hope and life into bringing the emotion back to ecommerce shopping. However they have still not evolved a real-time human connection until now. Gucci’s Live, a new online service brings the advisor to the customer. The new effort allows Gucci to be more present (human) in the lives of its customers, when and where they want it (technology).

Marco Bizzarri, Gucci president and CEO, said in a statement when Gucci 9 opened. “The service is delivered according to the values that define and differentiate our brand today: a human touch powered by technology.”

Democratizing personalization

In the near-term this level of service is a stretch for most mass retailers as they continue to use human associates. Creative ones like Gucci will integrate influencers, major stars, etc and perhaps even charge a premium for exclusive ‘remote’ shopping experiences. However, we ultimately believe this could easily trickle down to retailers like Target

Positive COVID impacts

COVID made remote video a reality overnight. The reality of a remote shopping spree with friends in different cities around the world no longer seems like science fiction. This gets us excited about a whole new possibility for Ecommerce!

PINE

At PINE we are always looking ahead for what the future might look like, we call these  GLIMPSES. We help Fortune 100 companies translate GLIMPSES into actionable strategies and implementable experiences. 

Special thanks to co-author John Youger

If you are reading this you probably already know that the PINE team loves to travel.  We spend a lot of time on the road because we enjoy seeing and experiencing new things. We know all the fresh inputs lead to better outputs for ourselves and our clients. 

One of our more noteworthy work experiences this year happened when we visited a store called Foodhall, in Mumbai, India.  Foodhall is a premium lifestyle food superstore that was started in 2011 by the Future Group of India.  Future Group’s founder, Kishore Biyani, started other successful retail ventures including Pantaloons and Big Bazaar.  Some say he is India’s Sam Walton.  

The store we visited, the concept’s largest, opened in December of last year.  It’s a 25,000 square foot space, in Bandra, an upscale suburb of Mumbai. It caters to the wealthy class of Mumbai; the prices are beyond the reach of the average Indian consumer.  Here you will see the occasional sari on a middle-aged woman, but more often than not, torn jeans, t-shirts and Apple Watches, is what the young and old are wearing. 

At it’s core, it’s a grocery store.  But it attempts to push well beyond that idea. This particular site has 4 stories and a basement.  Full assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables, packaged goods and cooking related general merchandise.  Sprinkled through the store are little bars or stations, some with seating, where you can get smoothies, coffee, teas, fresh baked goods and confections. Shopper enter at ground level and are met by a full assortment of fresh items, a health bar, bakery and checkout.   

Market feel right at the entrance

The smell of fresh baked goods hits you right when you walk through the front door



Grab some flowers right by the checkout

Surprisingly wide selection of better for you items

Grab some leafy greens or just buy the plant!

The 2nd floor is a mix of food, bars and housewares. There’s a cool little Coffee Bar with Indian coffee varieties and specialty ways of brewing, including a Japanese method.  You can buy coffee to drink on the spot or beans to take home.

Cool little coffee bar

Around the corner from the Coffee bar are a Tea bar, Sweets bar and more typical rows of gondolas of grocery items.  They have wide assortments of honey, jams, teas and some traditional western snacks. 

For the (Tea) lovers

On the 3rd floor are a full restaurant and an industrial kitchen used for cooking classes.   The schedule for the cooking classes seemed chock full of great meal ideas. Shoppers can sign up and show up for the lesson.

Full service restaurant

A full calendar of events

You definitely deserve a coffee break for getting this far

Retailers in the U.S. should take notice, while Foodhall doesn’t get it perfect, it’s one of the better attempts we’ve seen toward this blend of grocery and experience. Eately is less everyday and Whole Foods and others with dining are too grocery. We are excited to see what Future Group can do on future iterations as they refine the concept.  

The day after shopping this store we met an old friend who is well connected in Indian retail. He mentioned “a team from Amazon” had just visited the store.  And suddenly a recent announcement made sense.   This is another move in India by Amazon. Last year they bought More, (a concept I worked on). Oh..and maybe the good people at Kroger were there too, with today’s announcement, who knows.

Our team walked away with inspiration and new ideas that we’ve undoubtedly brought to clients since the trip. We always think it’s a great use of time and resources to take a road trip and find some inspiration!  Stay tuned for thoughts from our next adventure.

If you have any comments or questions, send me a note: raj.shroff@pinesd.com

The most profound impact on how we will shop in the future won’t be AI, VR, AR, big data or anything else.  It will something far simpler that will yield greater impact; the death of single-use packaging.

I’m in the business of retail, consulting with the world’s leading companies, many of which are consumer packaged goods companies, on how to better position their products into stores so shoppers buy them.  Being in the business of retail, I read a lot about the industry and am in discussions daily on its future. Yet, rarely do I hear people talk about innovating away from their packaging.

In my view, the next great retailer will bring the death of single-use packaging and in doing so, disrupt the industry and flip how we buy on its head.  

My interest comes at at time when I have this never-ending dirty feeling after emptying a box of cereal or crackers, or the many other things that are in my pantry for a few days tops (I have two young, growing boys) and then tossing them into the recycling bin.

That’s not me, nor is it a pantry.

Then one day I stumbled across this article while doing research for a client project.  And then later that day, had a business development call related to Loop.  Coincidence?

I’ve always been fascinated by the excess waste we live with day-in and day-out.  Though I grew up in Cincinnati, every year of my life I’ve visited Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, always visiting my dad’s sister, who is now 80.  She shops at the market, takes her own cloth bag, stocks up on fruits, vegetables and staples and puts them in glass jars in her pantry.

There is very little, if any plastic or cardboard packaging in her house.  
The only packages I can think of are laundry detergent, some hand soap dispensers and shampoo. If she could, she’d probably buy this in bulk too.

Every morning a milkman delivers fresh milk…which by the way, milk my aunt uses to make me the world’s best coffee.  I suspect this way of “package-free living” would be appealing to the younger generations that everyone is trying to attract. They are mindful of waste and generally more in touch with the environmental impact of consumption.

With the evolution of delivery and the consistent price pressure Amazon puts on the industry, I would imagine some smart people looking at ways to cut costs are asking what a single-use package-free retail ecosystem looks like.  People like those at Loop. Imagine a single-use package-free world. What would that look like? Maybe it’s Loop or a similar model. What would the infrastructure needed be? Would it be worth the effort for all key parties? Would it be a net benefit?

I met with a friend earlier in the week and he reminded me that packaging design is so key for in-store, to attract the eyes of prospective shoppers. But I would argue that there would be ways to attract eyes without having to mass produce and shelve thousands of cereal boxes.  Seems so archaic, doesn’t it.

Someone’s Dark Ages

To envision this at scale in the next three years, you might have to suspend reality.  Maybe there are micro distribution centers or fill up stations in neighborhoods. Maybe Walmart and other retailers are delivering filled reusable vessels to your home weekly with their home vending machine system.  Whatever it is, single-use packaging, you’ve been forewarned.  Your days are numbered. And by the way, don’t get me started on those laptop and phone boxes either.

Feel free to shoot me a note whether you agree or not. raj.shroff@pinesd.com.