The retail revolution has started, and its in your pocket! It arrived without fanfare, without a huge unveiling or product launch, without a nationally-televised rally. It's your smartphone. We are not only doing more and more of our actual purchasing through our phone, but it's completely changing the way we shop in stores, and retailers are struggling to keep up with the changes.
Beauty chain Sephora made early strides in this area, even though it didn't pursue mCommerce until recently. The entire focus of Sephora's first-gen mobile website (and a big feature of its current, expanded one, m.sephora.com) is a massive database of customer product ratings and reviews. Sephora was very early in recognizing that shoppers often find themselves struggling to make a choice with far too little information to guide them (and they don't always trust sales associates). By putting peer opinions and data within easy reach, Sephora made the shopping experience more comfortable and reassuring, and that's always good for business.
Best Buy recently took a major step in embracing the revolution by rolling out QR codes on their product fact tags on store shelves. This was a brilliant move. They know consumers are going to use their phones to get more product information to help with the buying decision. There's no way to stop that, but if you can keep them from looking for that information anywhere outside of Best Buy's kingdom, you cut the chances that they'll spot a better price or better deal somewhere else. The best way to do that is exactly what they've done... make it fiendishly simple to access the information without typing a single character!
Retailers are going to have to come to grips with the fact that they no longer have a "secure environment" within their stores. They are going to have to embrace these new technologies, and the level of transparency they bring to consumers, if they want to prosper under the new regime. Vive la revolution!