Retail through the Rabbit Hole: resizing and looking for human contact

A real “physical” connection, marking the birth of a true omnichannel: online shop - physical shop - in-shop assistant - delivery - driver-assistant. Is it a dream?

It’s a world in transition. Very fast transition. Three years ago, when Milkman’s Blog published its first article, big all-encompassing marketplaces and crowdsourced deliveries seemed to be the answers to all the uncertainties sowed by Amazon in the Retail world.

Now small ultra-personalized retailers and value-added delivery services are the only (apparent) cure for the Bezos’ killer flu. It was a fun trip, this transition from everything huge to everything tiny and an interesting one too.

Human nature, it seems, can only take so much “oversizing” at a time. Then our social instincts prevail and we start to use innovation to find, in a better and simplified way, what we had and was then lost.

Other reasons, naturally, factor in: no one can beat Amazon at its own game. So, instead of going big, you have to offer what it can’t: an experience, a connection, a feeling, a non-massified product. That’s possible even if you are a mass retailer: give the people a chance to participate in the product and, instead of sending your store employees towards extinction, educate them to become the best of the best, someone whose advice makes shopping a more fulfilling experience. The store, like Alice in the rabbit hole, is fastly and furiously changing size too. It is becoming smaller: more display than warehouse, more social hub than market.

This goes for deliveries too. Crowdsourcing is not the solution to all issues. Sometimes it may even be the issue itself. UberRush closed. Doorman Closed. Jinn Closed. Only the hot-food players survive (although Foodora has left Italy, France, Spain and Australia just yesterday). People want good deliveries, made by professional drivers, with logos and uniforms, at an appointed day and hour, because you don’t want to buy online without friction only to find friction right after your money is gone.

A real “physical” connection, marking the birth of a true omnichannel: online shop – physical shop-in-shop assistant – delivery – driver-assistant. Is it a dream?

Signals suggesting that people are reaching out, or will soon be, abound. Facebook has lost 19% of his value in one day, its western audience having ceased to grow. Privacy scandals and fake news are rocking the social networks’ intoxicated biosphere, hopefully pushing them towards a late but welcome self-regulation.

And yet it might get worse before it gets better. Some bubbles have to burst, some economies have to rise and others to tremble, before we realize that this great wave of personal and industrial tech, driven by voice, data, and robots, has to be used to empower the human being, not to dis-empower him.

We’re not building self-driving cars to let you scroll more Facebook and buy more Amazon while going from A to B. We’re not building efficient platforms to let employers ignore the rights of their de-facto employees.

Watch the scenery, read a good book or article, find a better job while a robot does the mind-numbing stuff, buy in a wonderful shop and enjoy a great personalized delivery, maybe asking the courier to help you install a gadget or to drink a coffee while you decide what to return.

There can be innovation without dystopia but to reach it we’ll have to work very hard. And no robot will be able to help us.

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