"Every day in the press, traditional retailers are announcing bankruptcy or closing stores, and it's because they haven't innovated the shopping experience." - Dave Gilboa, chief executive and co-founder of Warby Parker
We’re often told, via both media headlines and damning financial statements, that the bricks and mortar retail industry is in trouble. It’s no secret that retail and buying habits have changed significantly in recent years. Almost all products are now available online, often cheaper, or at least perceived as cheaper than in-store.
But it needn’t be a ‘clicks vs bricks’ thing. The most innovative retailers today recognise that digital technology is no threat. In fact, some are already treating it like a saviour - creating boutique, connected and immersive experiences that shoppers actually seek out.
So, what exactly could embracing digital offer the in-store experience? Here’s a starter for five:
Digital is making retail more seamless for shoppers. Mobile-enabled and one touch payments are just the start. Brands like McDonald’s are now looking to speed up the checkout process with the introduction of digital kiosks; as of 2020, self-service ordering kiosks will be implemented at all U.S. McDonald’s locations. Beacons have had mixed reception since they were introduced in 2013, but the fairly recent launch of Amazon Go™ stores should give retailers inspiration as to how they can be used in this “grab and go” format, negating the need for checkouts. According to Forbes, connecting facial recognition in-store to purchasing history and product preferences is on the cards this year. That means you only have to walk in the door - and look - here’s your boots in white, with that tassel thing you like on the side.
Don’t be afraid of empowering your customers. They’re going to be looking to screens for advice and inspiration, better you be there for them when they do. Merging the offline and online worlds can help retailers put greater control in the hands of their customers and their staff. For example, brand representatives could be given a tablet to make both customer interactions and processing transactions easier - something we helped Clarins do with its Connect app. For those who want to compare specs, availability and price without the need for staff, check out the Nike Shoe Terminal.
Building a community
Even with technology making the in-store experience easier, people are shunning bricks and mortar stores in favour of websites. Brands need to find more inventive ways to entice them back. One of these is by using the store as more than a place to conduct sales - it can be a hub for the brand’s community, something that can be even more effective when linked to social. This could be in the form of live streaming events and educational seminars, or perhaps hosting conversation from social channels on in-store digital walls.
A bit of theatre
Today’s technology can help retailers put on a show for their customers - another way to draw in would-be online shoppers. From VR and AR to 360 digital mirrors; dynamic show-rooming to innovation installations. Cosmetics brand Charlotte Tilbury used AR-enabled mirrors in-store to scan customers faces and show them how they’d look fully made up. LEGO recently created an empty store where products would only be revealed through Snapchat AR. If budgets were no issue, the options would be endless.
Value beyond price
Use digital to gift shoppers something beyond what they pay for. Whether that’s entertainment, useful take-home content or bragging rights. Warby Parker’s Greenroom kind of does all three - it’s a room in-store where people can record themselves against a green screen while wearing WP specs. The output? Fifteen second selfie films against funky backdrops. Share on social, send to your girlfriend or keep it for later so you can reflect on how good you looked in those specs.
Laggard or Leader. Modest budget, or large one. One touch payments, or hipster greenrooms - there’s a role for digital in any retail experience.
Joseph Rasmussen, strategic planner, Movement