Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Salmon, Lumber, and the Transformation of Online Retail

Salmon, Lumber, and the Transformation of Online Retail

By Dennis D. McDonald

The recent purchase of Whole Foods by Amazon got me thinking: will I ever buy groceries online?

I'm not talking about the occasional food and sundries I already buy online from the likes of Amazon and Walmart like coffee beans, laundry detergent, dishwasher soap, and shaving supplies. I'm talking about regular purchases like lettuce, salmon, mushrooms, and boneless chicken breasts. You know, the things I like to see, touch, and smell before I scan them and put them into my shopping cart.

What actually came to mind first when I heard about the Whole Foods purchase was a recent trip to Home Depot for lumber to replace some boards in our deck before the staining. Would I ever trust someone else pick, say, eight 8-foot pressure-treated two-by-fours for me?

The answer: right now, absolutely not. Lumber pieces may not be the most expensive items but making sure they're straight and true is critical. Should I trust a busy individual Home Depot employee to pick out each and every piece of lumber and sight along its edge for straightness, given the high proportion of curved or warped lumber I know from experience that exists at the retail end?

The same goes for the selection of fish, mushrooms, and spinach. Would I trust the picker at Giant or Safeway to apply my same quality standards?

If you can convince me to feel confidence in the process and the price is reasonable, I'll say absolutely yes. I'll be happy to select and purchase grocery online, and that is the basic point made in E.G. Nadhan's Digital transformation: five principles for the retail industry. His five points are:

  1. Principle one: channel does not matter--to the customer.
  2. Principle two: location should not matter.
  3. Principle three: automation--and people--both matter.
  4. Principle four: innovation matters.
  5. Principle five: context is queen.

Keeping in mind that I have always disliked the "shopping experience," until all the above stars align I'll continue to be selective about what I buy online and what I buy at brick-and-mortar stores.

Will I ever buy another electric lawnmower, wireless printer, or package of laundry detergent in a brick and mortar retail store? Maybe not. When will I start buying fresh salmon fillets, cantelope, or avocados online? That's anybody's guess.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Dennis D McDonald.

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