How digital is changing the retail experience

If e-commerce is an expanding and promising sector, especially in the UK with £114 billion online sales in 2015, physical stores seem more relevant than ever. The Technology revolution that hit ecommerce 15 years ago, giving birth to the likes of Amazon, has now landed in store. Today’s customers expect retailers to bring together cross-channel insights through technology to develop more personalized and richer experiences. These expectations caused the emergence of the “Phygital” trend, which is a combination of physical and digital. If offline brands are developing digital in store, pure-players have also begun their transformation through the launch of flagship stores.

Digital to satisfy omnichannel requirements

This trend is in line with the customers who already have cross-channel purchasing habits, pushing retailers to implement digital inside their stores in order to offer the best customer experience as possible. Brands and retailers can take advantage of different kinds of tools to transcend the physical limitations of the retail space.

Digital displays are notably at the heart of a digital customer experience. In-store screens, whether tablets or wall-integrated screens, may be used to expose a range of products, display some specific information but also to order online from the store.

Pro Direct, with its London flagship, offers an immersive experience, through many digital screens and product display panels. The brand uses these screens to display live product launches advertisements, interactive digital mannequins that can be customized by customers, but also to take control of the full store atmosphere.

Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship store in Soho in New York revolutionizes the brick and mortar experience with a futuristic changing room, an automatic detection of the products (RFID technology), and a big interactive screen that displays product information. The connected mirrors are more than a gadget. They offer a service that simplifies and enriches the customer experience. According to the CEO, the fitting rooms have both increased customers’ time spent in stores and boosted clothing sales.

Digital to personalize the customer experience

Digital technologies are also a mean to customize and personalize the customer experience. Some brands such as Ray Ban, New Balance, or Nike offer their customers the possibility to design their own product. A specific area of the Nike Oxford Street flagship store – Nike ID studio – is dedicated for this matter and allows customers to design their shoes down to the smallest details before ordering them in a few clicks.

If the personalization of the customer experience starts with the product, it doesn’t end there, digital tools being a way to acquire data, knowledge, and insights on every single customer. More and more sellers are now equipped with tablets they can use to check data about the clients, their purchasing history or their favorite products in order to give personalized and consistent advice.

The Entertainer, the famous toy retailer, is arming each of its in-store staff members with tablets so that they can show the whole range of products, consult stocks as well as order online with the customer. Monsoon’s staff, a UK fashion retailer, can also rely on tablets to have access to product descriptions, but also personalized recommendations based on the customer history. The brand offers electronical receipts as well, in order to send other recommendations later on.

Digital to engage with customers

Retailers are also trying to take advantage of their clients’ omnichannel behavior. With 82% of customers consulting their smartphones while in-store, there is a great opportunity for physical stores.

Beacons are one way to reach the customers through their mobile by sending them information or promotions through push notifications when they get close to a store. If this technology – launched two years ago by Apple – was supposed to transform retail and the shopping experience, we haven’t seen much of a revolution. According to Forrester, in 2015, only 3% of retailers have been using beacons in the US. In our opinion this result has two major explanations:

  • The technology itself, with a dependency on various factors (Bluetooth connection required, risk of low signal, distance….)
  • The concept, which might be seen and felt as too intrusive and not in line with customers’ expectancies.

Social medias have become absolutely essential for retailers who wish to engage with their customers. Fashion retailers invest more and more in Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook ambassadors. Burberry launched a Snapchat campaign, allowing fans to follow the photoshoot and catwalk of the brands’ spring 2016 campaign during the Fashion Week. This ephemeral campaign was the first of its like by a fashion retailer, but obviously not the last one considering its success.

Digital doesn’t mean no physical

On the other side, many pure-players, and even the historical and very first ones such as Amazon are strategically establishing an in-store channel, choosing the launch of physical stores to expand and broaden opportunities. Birchbox, American pure-player and leader of the beauty box, opened a flagship store in New York in 2014. This original concept relies heavily on the online presence of the brand thanks to digital displays and iPads available in-store. On the same model, Warby Parker, online seller of glasses, whose concept is to receive and try glasses at home, has also opened a couple of stores in the US. Amazon launched its first library last year in Seattle, while Farfetch is working on the launch of its “Store of the Future” in London.
Futurist changing room 1 1024x223 - How digital is changing the retail experience

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