Retail Store Technology: Enhancing the In-Store Experience
As shopping online becomes more and more preferred over actually going to brick and mortar stores, retailers must create an in-store experience that people actually want to get off of their couches for. Over the past decade we have seen companies such as Amazon and Zappos explode and this has forced traditional brick and mortar retailers to change the way that they engage with their customers. It has also changed the landscape of malls and shopping centers where the focus is now on smaller footprints and fewer stores. There is also the need for stores to become a destination that customers will travel to and this has led to the emergence of experiential retail with leading companies including Apple, Shinola, REI and Sleep Number.
Customer experience & technology
It seems that you can't go anywhere without seeing retail store technology that has been introduced to enhance the consumer's in-store experience. Even at our local McDonalds, the installation of self-checkout kiosks has revolutionized the ordering of fast-food on your lunch-break!
Tech and data in store environments
Once they have managed to get you into their store, retailers are now trying to get the most bang for their buck!
Customer behavior is monitored through cameras and traffic counters, Target use the Cartwheel app to influence your purchasing decision, and inventory and shelf stocking can be controlled with real time data.
Why should technology enhancements be utilized?
There are very few negative aspects associated with the utilization of technology to enhance the in-store experience for your guests. The two most common challenges are the implementation costs due to the complexities of the systems in question, and the ever-evolving life of technology which brands most concepts as obsolete within a relatively short period of time.
Enhancing the in-store experience
The main benefits of enhancing the technology found within retail stores are:
1. In-store experience
2. Customer engagement
3. Brand experience
4. Omnichannel experience - seamless across all outlets/ touch-points
5. Drive store sales
Clicks to Bricks
A huge trend that continues to gain momentum is that of online retailers, also known as digitally native brands, launching into brick and mortar stores. That's right, up and coming brands with an already well-established online presence are starting to build a series of flagships stores in areas where they know they will hit a home-run every time.
One of the incredible aspects of e-commerce is the depth and breadth of customer data that is readily available to you. In an instant you can create heat maps showing the areas in which your sales are strongest, meaning the building of a traditional store in that area is almost guaranteed to be a success.
Many nationally recognized brands are utilizing retail store technology to enhance the shopping experience for their customers. Here are just three examples that we really like and thought would be worth sharing:
The technology now exists whereby you can go to the makeup counter within your local department store and a machine will not only tell you what make-up to purchase, it will also show you what it will look like when applied!
MAC cosmetics are also changing the landscape of the cosmetics industry through their virtual try-on magic mirror. Take a look at this video to see the power of this technology.
I personally like to get my shopping done in the shortest time possible, and my focus is on the efficiency rather than the experience. Some of my least favorite establishments to visit are coffee shops, clothing stores, and shoe stores because there are just far too many options to select from. I become frustrated with the entire process, and often end up just getting the first thing that I see so that I can mark the task as complete! With this mentality, shopping for sunglasses is never a fun experience. With an awareness of the frustrations experienced by people similar to me Luxottica have turned to technology to eliminate the overwhelm many feel when faced with hundreds of options to select from.
3. Warby Parker
This NYC based eye-wear disruptor uses facial recognition technology to provide you with recommended frames given the contours on your face.
This is an idea that has been thrown around for several years now, but it was only earlier this year that the first Amazon Go store opened. The major competitor to Amazon is the San Francisco based start-up Standard Cognition, who are strictly a technology company who plan to have retailers all over the world utilize their technology to enhance the in-store experience, improve business efficiency, and reduce consumer frustration. The Standard Cognition technology is currently making huge waves across Asian markets.
A look behind the scenes at the power of Standard Cognition's AI-powered checkout.
Balance through an omni-channel approach
In order for the modern day retailer to be successful they need to have an identity, they need a values system, they need brand consistency, and most importantly, they need balance. We are still in a very transitional time where baby-boomers who grew up without technology controlling their lives still want to go to the local store or coffee shop and speak to a live human being. If your store eliminates all human aspects and relies 100% on technology advancements, you are likely going to alienate this group from your customer base. However, if you have a brand and a target market that is strictly focused on advancements, innovation, and efficiency, then a 100% autonomous store is likely the way to go.
As a consumer, what are your thoughts on technology and it's impact on the in-store experience? What are your favorite stores and how are they using technology to deliver an ever improving experience to you, their customer?
Thanks for reading, and please let us know if there is anything that the team at Royal Services can do to help you in your role.