Most conversations with fellow retailers as we celebrated Diwali festivities in Hong Kong last week have been around how online shopping experiences seem to lack the magic of touch. There has been for some time now a need for a breakthrough in online shopping making it a less “insular” ,“boring” and “transactional” experience.
Ron Johnson, the former senior vice president of retail operations at Apple and former J.C. Penney CEO, announced that he raised $25 million for a new startup called Enjoy, to enhance customer experience for online purchases. The idea as shared with the Wall Street Journal is to go beyond delivery which seems to be the focus of most online stores.
The announcement of the return of Ron Johnson, the man with the Midas touch who transformed technology retail experience through Apple’s successful concept stores, is therefore welcome news. If one has closely followed Ron Johnson’s strengths as a retailer, this would augur a new approach to online shopping and hopefully shake retailers out of the current trend of assuming that “desirability” in the online shopping world is limited to efficiency and fast delivery alone. Shopping, we seem to have forgotten is a social activity, an outing my niece and her friends gets dressed up for on the weekend.
Time will tell if there exists an opportunity for high touch in high tech, and if Ron Johnson is able to resurrect his reputation after being unceremoniously fired from JC Penney in April 2013.