The retail experience is no longer what it used to be. Since the olden days, it solely referred to physical brick-and-mortar stores. Then in the early 90’s, with the commercial availability and usage of the Internet, eCommerce came into play. With the introduction of mobile phones, especially smart phone, eCommerce began transition to mobile commerce, also known as mCommerce. Along with mCommerce came newer and shinier ways for customers to find the items they desired, such as voice and visual search.
Preferred shopping methods certainly skewed quite a bit in the past decade, largely due to the latest technologies, availability, and selections. Have the demands of consumers changed? Well, yes and no. In the most basic level, consumer behavior remained unchanged. They continue to want the items they desire ASAP, at a reasonable price. Technology is what elevated ways to deliver on that, and the savviest retailers know to implement the right tech on all the touchpoints to enhance the customer experience. That means offering customers a seamless experience across mobile and desktop, in addition the actual store.
However, we have all heard the cases of the online counterparts of retail stores faring much better, and the retail stores closing up shop as a result. Consumers are increasingly getting comfortable with shopping digitally at the expense of the brick-and-mortars. Is there any way for retailers to keep the mobile/web activity going, but also keep their customers coming back into the store? Absolutely! The best way to bridge the gap is to bring the digital experience into the store using the latest technology. In theory, it may appear a bit intimidating, especially considering the rapid evolution of tech offerings- but it really isn’t an issue at all. You have to be in it, to win it. These are some tech offerings worth looking into, in an effort to stay ahead of the curve:
- Visual search is quickly rising in popularity, thanks to visual social platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. Retailers can make the most of visual search by having their own chatbot, which can act as a digital personal shopping assistant that can guide customers to your store. Visual search is actually one of the leading new trends in eCommerce that quickly becoming the standard.
- Smart mirrors aren’t nearly getting as much press as they deserve. Take for example, Perseus Mirrors. It is an interactive mirror that retailers can install to allow their customers to digitally try on a look before buying it. This is a big time-saver for customers who despise changing in and out of clothes in dressing rooms. There’s also a fun social media element to their mirrors- users can snap pics from the mirrors themselves, and upload them onto social networks. About half of all shoppers dread trying things on, yet are more likely to make purchases after trying them on. Perseus Mirrors are a lifesaver in that regard. They additionally feature a variety of applications geared towards retailers, such as customer analytics, email tracking, and there is also the eCommerce element built in.
- Offline showrooms for online sales are a new trend that faring well for many companies. Here’s the concept- you go into a store simply to try on clothes, accessories, or even gadgets. Salespeople will be there to assist in finding the right items based on your specifications. When you’re ready, they will help you place the order for the item(s) to ship directly to your home. If you end up changing your mind, you can always return back to the store. It’s brilliant, because it eliminates the hassle of carrying bags, and eliminates the guesswork for new customers who want to purchase online but aren’t familiar with the brand. This is also very cost-effective. Brands can save a great deal of money on retail space, utilities, and overhead costs. This method is strongly recommended for brands that are targeting millennials and centennials.
- Augmented reality is a stress-reliever for retailers (and consumers) in home decor. This helps customers get an understanding of how bulkier items would actually look in their homes, via a visual representation. Customers would know off the bat if the couch is too long, or if the dresser won’t go with the theme of the bedroom. This technology ties in with that of smart mirrors- allowing customers to digitally experience an item before making a purchase.
These are just some of the top ways retailers can stay relevant in terms of technology, without harming their physical business location. Before you jump into anything, do some research to determine whether your target audience would be on board with your digital transformation.