How stores should embrace digital to provide an innovative shopping experience

As online sales continue to increase, my last post looked at how retailers can maximise digital sales of high-value items. However there is still a good proportion of customers who like to visit a store to view a product before making a purchase, particularly for higher-value items.

It is therefore important retailers do not forget about their bricks and mortar stores and look to embrace digital in order to provide a great shopping experience in-store, as well as online.

Savvy customers are demanding a seamless multi-channel experience where they have the flexibility, choice and convenience to buy where they want, when they want. Retailers therefore need to implement more advanced digital and multi-channel technology in their stores.

We have the following suggestions:

  • Integrate your multi-channel retail systems so that stores can efficiently correlate orders and stock availability with all other channels. New, integrated technologies are crucial to efficient product fulfilment, order management and operational success
  • Introduce in-store Wi-Fi to allow users access to the Internet for free. A third of consumers carry out in-store comparison shopping on their mobile phones. So whether they are price checking, looking for the best deal or for looking for delivery options, today’s customers want to make the most informed choice
  • Introduce in-store kiosks or tablets so that customers can browse your full product range and place online orders in-store. This also presents the opportunity for store staff to educate less savvy customers on how to use your website
  • Utilise QR codes or develop a barcode scanning apps for use in the following areas:

1. Store window displays to allow customers to scan and buy. Waitrose and John Lewis did this over the Christmas period (although the window display is still there now – in March!) This type of feature could work well around seasonal events or particular promotions to showcase a targeted range

2. Store shelves or individual product tickets so that customers can scan items, add products to an online shopping basket or save them in an online wish list. This means customers will get the in-store experience, with the ease of online ordering and the convenience of home deliver

3. Additionally, you could provide detailed product information or video material so that customers can scan the store shelf or the product ticket to find out more about a product. For higher-value products such as furniture, perhaps lead people to buyer’s guides or extra images of the furniture to help customers visualise the product in different environments and rationalise the purchase

4. Print catalogues or brochures so those that customers can take a catalogue home and buy in their own time.  Shopping catalogues remain a firm favourite with UK shoppers

  • Interactive mirrors and integrating social media in store to provide an innovative shopping experience. Lingerie retailer Triumph recently launched their ‘fantasy mirror’ which allows shoppers to virtually try on lingerie without getting undressed
  • 3D augmented reality point of sale material. This would very useful for packaged products e.g. various bed linens or throws so that the customers can see what the linens will look like on a bed etc. This type of experience could help aid cross-selling where ‘stylist matched linens’ are sold in tandem with a bed frame
  • Don’t forget search! Retailers with stores must factor in local search as a key part of their retail natural search strategy. Google has been working hard to improve local search results and their most recent update included improvements to rankings for local search results, as well as richer local results. In layman’s terms, Google has got better at ‘understanding when search queries and documents are local to the user’ and they have improved the ‘triggering of Local Universal results’. This increased emphasis on local results highlights how crucial it is that your stores have a well optimised Google Place page that includes accurate and detailed store information, good imagery and customer reviews

Every retailer is different so what is right for one retailer may not be right for another. However, it is clear that the in-store experience needs to adapt and continue to evolve to match the needs of today’s customers.

Ultimately, readdressing your in-store technology and experience will require a great deal of time and financial investment but the benefits of developing a richer shopping experience will become increasingly important for thriving in the ever-evolving retail environment.

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