I have a story for you. Or more specifically, STORY has a story they hope you’ll be interested in.
Story is a new retail concept, being told in oh-so-chic Chelsea, a neighborhood in New York City where the beautiful people live, work, and if Story has anything to say about it, shop, off-line, for things that otherwise would only be available on-line.
The question here is where the retail model stops being about retail. Story, presenting stuff-for-sale laid out as art exhibitions, just isn’t very likely to care about traditional retail concepts like customer service. And why would they be? Story may want to sell you the things you discover looking at their fabulous displays, but in a few weeks, they’ll have new things, from new vendors. And hey, it was those vendors who “really” sold you the things you bought at Story, right?
The retail business has been going through wholesale changes recently, and other than being pretty sure that big shopping malls are headed for extinction, I don’t have so much as a guess how things are ultimately going to shake out. Procter & Gamble thinks they can cut out distributors. Poorly implemented though it is to date, Apple thinks on-line purchase for off-line pickup is the way to go. And working it over at RentTheRunway, the very smart founders there are combining on-line and off-line to bring couture to everyone.
All of those business models have merit. I’m having a much harder time finding a compelling story at Story.
Of course, the story at Story might be that there isn’t a story to tell. Retail Business Change is becoming about the strange things that happen when off-line and on-line converge. How strange? Try asking any of the big three search engines about Procter and Gamble Business Change or Procter and Gamble Selling Direct. Use the spelled-out form of “and” or the ampersand symbol in your search. In all cases the story about P&G that I mentioned above shows up on the first page of the search results.
Before today, it was the only time we’ve ever so much as mentioned Procter and Gamble here. We really don’t talk about retail very often, save the instances when I rant about customer service or someone earns a place on The Answer Guy’s Verizon Wireless Customer Service Wall of Shame. But through the magic of search engine optimization, we’ve brought the merger of Procter and Gamble’s online and offline presences right here, to Answer Guy Central.
There’s no question that retail, like all business, is changing. And managing that change is a challenge (we can help, by the way). What’s still up in the air is whether creating business change is about the story you tell, or the way you tell that story.
And at Story, it looks like they think the latter is all that matters.