Despite the rapid rise of ecommerce, physical stores still matter a great deal for the world’s biggest retailers. A recent study by Time Trade showed that 71% of consumers still prefer to go to a physical location to buy something, rather than buy the same thing online. Trying on a dozen dresses while hanging out with friends or splitting a pizza while hitting the town is an experience that simply cannot be replicated online.
Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is working on leveraging it’s behemoth network of brick and mortar stores in order to fend off competition from Amazon, which traditionally dominated the e-commerce space. Walmart’s CEO McMillon believes that the extensive network of stores, and the real life interaction with staff and products they provide, give Walmart a strategic advantage over e-commerce players.
When Amazon, the world’s biggest online retailer, starts opening brick-and-mortar stores, it is a clear sign that in-store customer experience is of paramount importance for retailers and that brick and mortar is not going anywhere soon.
However, with the growing importance of omnichannel, retail spaces need to embrace new technologies that enhance overall customer experience – in store and beyond. Here’s a look at the biggest technological trends in brick-and-mortar retailing and how they are shaping the customer experience.
Brick and mortar role is evolving for both retail and QSRs. Rather than clear demarcation between in-store, mobile and online channels that are competing against each other, physical and digital need to work together to create a cohesive omnichannel experience.
Retail giants such as Amazon, Disney and Under Armor are realizing that. Going forward, “success means merging online and in-store.” In 2017 retail, the question of online versus offline is losing it’s meaning, as retailers are increasingly focused on making sure that in-store customer experience works seamlessly with online and mobile channels.
The difference between ecommerce and brick and mortar retail becomes fuzzy, and this trend will continue gaining momentum in 2017.
A few years ago, digital signage was limited to promoting a business or product on a digital screen. Since then, it has evolved into something much more exciting. In 2017, it is all about interactive content.
Branded mobile app is the new hi-tech version of the loyalty program and is a great way to interact with customers and reward their loyalty with points and credits. Major companies have seen tremendous success with their branded applications. For example, the Target Cartwheel allows customers to choose from a wide range of discounted items and generate points by buying online; or by scanning the app barcode at a brick and mortar location. Starbucks has also seen tremendous success with its own mobile reward program, which has led to very high customer satisfaction and generates over a fifth of company revenue.
As customers become more glued to their devices, it is important for stores to find ways to interact with those devices. Both the use of beacon and wearable technology have a tremendous potential for enhancing customer experience by allowing retailers to push relevant, timely and personalized messages directly to in-store consumers devices. ABI Research forecasts that 400 million beacons will be deployed by 2020, and proximity marketing is becoming “the new normal” for brick and mortar locations worldwide.
Wearables and beacons have a tremendous potential when it comes to enhancing the customer experience in store, which include tailor- made discounts, rewards, recommendations and deals.
And, it seems like consumers are on board too. A 2015 study found that 82 percent of shoppers who were planning on purchasing a wearable device, expected wearables to enhance their in-store experience by sending them custom made notifications and promotions.
Everyone by now is familiar with the augmented reality game called Pokemon Go. McDonald’s has picked up on the idea and has partnered with the creators of Pokemon to create Pokemon Gyms that are played in any of the 3,000 McDonalds in Japan. The genius is that players can only advance in the game by entering a restaurant and making a purchase.
Gamification is not new, but it is being used in new ways when it comes to engaging customers in-store. Retail brands will be jumping onboard by capitalizing on in-store gamified experiences, as there is no better way to get people into your store then by providing a compelling, fun and interactive game. If you aren’t familiar with the term, gamification uses elements of play and common game mechanics like points, badges, to affect behaviour. Mobile applications and digital loyalty programs have been using gamification for as long as they exist. However, the trend that we increasingly see in 2017 is the introduction of gamification in brick-and-mortar locations.
With interactive games to engage in-store consumers, QSRs and fast casual restaurants enhance customer experiences, boost existing loyalty programs, create engagement and drive sales. Having an on-location gamification solution can be a make it or break it factor for many QSRs and retailers in 2017.
Consumer oriented business that operate in physical locations such as retailers, QSRs and fast casual restaurants are increasingly forced to rethink customer experience in holistic terms, breaking the artificial boundaries between in-store, mobile and online retail channels. In 2017 it is no longer a question of online vs physical retail – it is all about interactive customer experience across channels.
Brick and mortar retail faces unique challenges. As new technological solutions for enhancing customer experiences are rolled out to brick and mortar locations, retail brands need to tread carefully to ensure that these solutions indeed deliver the results retailers are looking for, such as building meaningful and long lasting relationships and generating repeat visits.
In order to reach those objectives through customer experiences, without wasting money on products that simply don’t work, retail brands need to focus on solutions that provide a Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop – a technique that aims at continuously improving the experience based on analytical tools.
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