August 12, 2011, 2:05 PM

A perfect retail world

There’s so much technology can do to make store shopping more fun. How long before retailers catch on?

In my world, this is shopping perfected: I’m walking down the street and Ding, a coupon pops up on my iPhone for 75% off a super-cute, green A-line dress at Bloomingdale’s. (Gentlemen, feel free to picture a blowout sale on flat-screen TVs, power tools, or whatever it is you get excited about.)

Of course, Bloomingdale’s is my most favorite store and just so happens to be right around the corner. “Cool,” I say to myself. “I don’t necessarily need a new dress (or monster TV), but, heck, I should really check this out.”

So I tap the coupon on my iPhone, am promptly shown a map reminding me where the store is located and I walk in. The retailer’s app then directs me to the exact shelf where the dress is situated—in the back, around to the left. Ah! I love it, simply must have it, but, of course, they don’t have my size.  So a sales clerk walks up, “May I help you?” she asks. I tell her I’m crushed that they don’t have my size.

“Hang on,” the woman says, and pulls out her mobile device. “We have your size in our store on State Street, two more at the store on Halsted and one more in our distribution center. Would you like to walk the mile to State Street and pick it up, or shall we ship it to you at home for no charge?”

I opt for home shipping, so the sales clerk scans the coupon on my smartphone with her mobile device, touches my phone again with hers to grab my e-wallet info, and my purchase is complete. She e-mails me my receipt and I am in and out in about three minutes.

Kevin Conway over at web hosting provider Savvis, who presented me with a version of this scenario last week, thinks it will be about five years before a healthy chunk of retailers will be able to let consumers shop this way. From locking in to their most loyal customers’ locations, to aligning inventories across all channels, to e-wallets, to training sales clerks on mobile devices—it’s a serious undertaking for any retailer, no matter how large they might be.

But I can tell you, retailers out there, if I can shop your stores this way, I’ll be spending a heck of a lot more money with you. I’ll carve out more money in the budget each month for you, in fact, and I’ll tell everybody I know how fabulous you are because you’ll be making the process of spending money fun, adventurous and too alluring to pass up. You’ll be tricking me into believing that it was me who found 70% off of a to-die-for green dress because I was a tech-savvy, bargain-hunting dynamo. But really, all the while, it was you, luring me in with your push notifications and cross-channel fulfillment capabilities and well-trained staffers.

Savvis tells me they are gearing up for this type of world.  Are you?

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