April 30, 2020

The Future Happened

I ordered pizza and some chicken picante online. I enter car information, and I'm told to arrive and pick up the order in twenty-five minutes.

When I arrive, a sandwich board directs me to a parking spot that is designated by a handful of orange cones. It is 98 degrees outside, but rolling the windows down as a young woman approaches my car wearing a mask and plastic gloves feels strangely refreshing. Being "outside" is good!

Young Woman Wearing Mask and Plastic Gloves:  Are you Kevin?

Kevin:  Yes.

Young Woman Wearing Mask and Plastic Gloves:  Your total is $34.99. I will run inside and get your food.

I sensed that the young woman was happy ... I could only see her eyes (they twinkled) and her voice was muffled by her mask, but you get the picture. Maybe it is a blessing to have a  mask-wearing job when thirty-million of your peers were sacked in the past six weeks.

Ninety seconds later, she handed me my food ... being ever-so-careful to not make any physical contact. Next, she hands me a clipboard with my credit card receipt attached. She offers a pen, but I use my own pen ... again, we sure don't want to make contact, now do we? I leave a tip.

Young Woman Wearing Mask and Plastic Gloves:  Thank you!

Kevin:  Thank you.

On the way home, I realized that the "Seamless, Frictionless Omnichannel Shopping Experience" that vendors, pundits, trade journalists, conference organizers, and thought leaders have been begging my clients to implement had finally arrived. I imagine every person advocating an omnichannel future would trade it back in for the old, unorganized, friction-filled world ... in a heartbeat ... if they could.

There will be a day when we will fully appreciate the in-store experience that our industry spent twenty years trying to decimate in favor of a digital future. Sometimes you just need a bit of perspective ... the kind of perspective the plague, a quarantine, and thirty-million unemployed fellow citizens bring to the table.

P.S.:  I also participated in my first telemedicine experience on Thursday. One can easily see that we're never going to back to old medicine. I remember our family doctor performing house calls in the early 1970s. Forty-five years later we participated in a different style of medicine. And today, that style of medicine has been utterly disrupted in favor of a digital house call.

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