Staples is giving new meaning to the idea of omni-channel retailing. Through a desire to give consumers access to multiple shopping channels, Staples intends to start putting kiosks into their brick-and-mortar stores that will allow their customers to shop online for products that are either out of stock or are not available for sale within the brick-and-mortar locations.
As the second largest e-tailer, behind only Amazon, Staples has clearly acknowledged the importance of multi-channel retailing and that it is essential to their growth to continue expanding their e-commerce presence. Selling more than $10 billion worth of products online each year, Staples was one of the first companies to add a tablet-specific site in addition to their mobile site, award-winning smartphone app, and regular virtual storefront (which is seen by approximately three million unique consumers each week).
Last August, Staples created a location in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, separate from their headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts, which is "responsible for designing and implementing innovative new e-commerce and mobile solutions across Staples global business units to better serve the millions of customers who shop Staples websites and stores worldwide." Called the Velocity Lab, this location holds about 75 associates that are comprised of 1/3 Staples veterans and 2/3 new hires. Intentionally done to mix Staples corporate culture with fresh ideas, this team of associates holds the sole responsibility of creating and developing new technology to maintain their role as a major e-commerce retailer.
Beyond the insertion of kiosks that will allow customers to shop online from brick-and-mortar locations, some of the other new technologies being implemented at Staples will include a message going out over the in-store intercom system if a customer has spent a particular amount of time in a specific section requesting that an associate head over to that section. Additionally, all associates will be carrying around tablets which can be used to check inventory and help customers order online.
Despite all of these technological advancements being inserted into Staples stores, this does not mean that Staples intends to expand its brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, as leases end for brick-and-mortar locations, Staples will be seeking to shrink some of its major superstores. Additionally, 30 underperforming stores will be closed by the end of this year.
What do you think of Staples idea of combining online shopping into their brick-and-mortar retail experience? Would you use the service?
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