In a connected world, what’s the role of the physical store?

Retailers like Sephora are already using connected technologies to help shoppers do things like choose makeup shades. Banks let users deposit checks from home. And your phone can already communicate with some of the devices in your kitchen. But what is required to move to the next level? And what will the role of the physical store or bank be in that world?

Going to a physical bank branch doesn’t bring people much pleasure, admitted Andres Wolberg-Stock, Citi Consumer Banking’s global mobile and tablet banking director, at GigaOM’s Mobilize Conference Wednesday. And, he added, “it’s not something that gives (the bank) great ROI if you don’t focus it extremely well…The value of each branch needs to be sharply focused on, perhaps, (customer)¬†acquisition. And banking could be an industry “where showrooming is actually encouraged”: A consumer could go to a physical branch, learn how to use its digital services and learn “how to avoid having to come back.”

Bridget Dolan, Sephora’s VP of interactive media, noted that the makeup retailer’s services for connected consumers still largely revolve around the physical store. For example, Sephora’s new “My Color IQ” tool, developed in partnership with Pantone, lets customers scan their skin in a Sephora store, find the right color of foundation for them and then work with a sales associate on an iPad to choose other products.

But, Dolan said, makeup shopping is pleasurable. She said that the men on the panel had all asked her how technology could help women avoid having to go shopping for makeup. “Oh,¬†honeys. Women love shopping for makeup.”

David Feller, CEO of food site Yummly, ran through the possibilities of a completely connected kitchen — one that knows a family’s taste, who’s coming over for dinner, what’s running low, what’s about to expire, what’s been in the freezer for too long, what the weather is outside and how that might relate to what’s for dinner. When it comes to cooking, though, the stores are still essential for cooks to buy ingredients — so your fridge could be placing an order with Instacart even if you never actually step foot inside a grocery store.

Most importantly, Feller said,¬†“We need to make sure there are standards and the ability for things to talk to each other. My toaster needs to be able to talk to my iPhone, and my iPhone needs to be able to talk to my bank or to Sephora…proprietary systems and networks won’t foster this open connection.”

Check out the rest of our Mobilize 2013 coverage here, and a video embed of the session follows below:

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A transcription of the video follows on the next page