Everywhere you look, technology is helping people to experience things in exciting new ways.
From the Periscope stream that shows the world through someone else’s eyes; to the GoPro view of a daring Base jump; or the VR headset that turns a rollercoaster into even more of a thrill ride, an increasing number of new experiences are being delivered by technology.
Retailers are sitting up and taking notice. Whereas once, going into a store and buying something was considered an experience in itself, today’s consumers crave something more special, more exclusive, more memorable and – in the world of smartphones and social media – more shareable.
“The brands that are using technology to create opportunities and provide the optimum experience for customers, are evolving with the consumer.”- Retail Gazette
Savvy retailers are responding to that craving by using the latest technologies to deliver unique and memorable in-store experiences.
The strategies they are adopting range from the practical (e.g. giving floor staff tablet computers to help them locate out-of-stock items for customers) to the almost-magical (e.g. using “smart mirrors” to enable shoppers to virtually try on different colours and sizes of the clothes they like).
Some of our favourite uses of technology to enhance the in-store experience include:
Making smart use of mobile devices in the store environment can benefit shoppers and retailers alike. The more a retail associate knows, the more helpful they can be to customers, so retailers like men’s style specialists Trunk Club give mobile devices to shop staff to help them access data about individual customers, answer their questions, locate out of stock items, and take payments and orders.
“I’m walking through physical racks of inventory and I’ve got to work out what to pull out for that customer. On my phone, I can see all his previous buying history, I can see his height, his weight, and then I can use the size advisor to work out what size is going to work best for them.” - Clienteling video interview with Trunk Club
At high-end furniture retailer Design Within Reach, meanwhile, sales personnel are equipped with tablets to help them talk customers through their interior design ideas and answer any questions they may have. With instant access to information about every item, sales staff can answer questions like whether an item can be customized and which colours it’s available in. That way, the salesperson can create a record of the discussion, and mail the customer a quote before they even leave the studio.
People used to the instant gratification of online shopping don’t enjoy spending time in a queue. So retailers like M&S are setting up “browse and order” points to enable shoppers to browse catalogues, order or reserve items, and have them delivered to a location of their choice.
Retailers like TopShop and Burberry know that their young, fashionable clientele are highly digitally savvy. They’re using cutting edge technologies to provide the kind of slick, digital experience their customers enjoy. Topshop has experimented with using Oculus Rift VR headsets to give its customers the experience of having a front-row seat at its London Fashion Week catwalk show, while Burberry and Shiseido both use augmented reality to show how people would look wearing their beauty products.
Almost certainly the “next big thing” in in-store technology, beacons enable stores to identify individual shoppers who have installed the store’s app on their smartphone. They can then propose personalised offers and discounts to that shopper as they browse – based on the data they already have about that customer’s preferences and previous purchases. Beacons are already being trialled in the UK by Tesco, Waitrose and Odeon, among others.
Retailers like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus are experimenting with smart mirrors in dressing rooms. Depending on the technology used, these can allow “virtual trying-on” of clothes, propose accessories to match an outfit, enable shoppers to upload photos of them wearing their new outfit to social media, and support electronic ordering straight from the dressing room. Smart mirrors can also be a useful new source of data about shoppers’ habits and preferences.
Technology is also being used in indirect ways to transform the in-store experience. Smart retailers are using mobile apps and in-store WiFi to keep store staff connected to key systems and data, so they can work more efficiently, spend more time with customers, and access the information they need to deliver the best possible customer service.
From augmented reality mirrors to keeping your employees connected, there are hundreds of exciting new tech-driven ways to transform the in-store experience and keep your customers loyal for longer. For more insights into how new technology approaches are disrupting retail, read our e-book: Engage With Today’s Customers: 4 Ways Retail Can Reimagine Business