Retailers are thinking about omni-channel strategies as consumers research online-buy in-store, or buy online-but collect in-store, or even as they use their smartphones in-store to research for better deals elsewhere.
There is no choice for retailers but to evolve. To shut down loss making stores. To improve their supply chain and fulfillment points. To use data in every way possible and analyze what is and is not working to make the experience of shopping the one a customer wants to come back to – again and again.
Indeed, this is all about the customer experience. Digital has penetrated so many aspects of today’s consumer life, with technology playing a center part of it. With this regard, retail is a very interesting vertical to observe: whilst the latest technologies invite for a more efficient and precise retail model, the in-store journey still seems to be predominant in the consideration and purchase cycle.
Here are some brands that have realized that a large part of their future is dependent on them revolutionizing the in-store experience.
Inspiration Corridor: A Personalized Digital Experience in Malls
Klépierre worked with DigitalsLBi’s Labs to create personalized shopping experiences in malls – leading the clarion call for change in the traditional shopper experience. Using an infra-red Kinect camera, the model scans visitors and collects data on their age, gender and dressing style, as they step into the “Inspiration Corridor”.
This helps the tool generate a customized inspiration list for customers, who can also scan bar codes for additional products to create matching sets or add on accessories to suit a combo. Using a data base of products from all partner brands in the mall allows users to quickly view, try on and purchase entire outfits at one go, rather than spending hours browsing individual stores. The system recognizes user choices to simultaneously update the recommendations.
Once the customer has made their selections, iBeacon technology allows users to sync their selections on the Klépierre mobile app, and make their purchases.
NIKEiD studio in the UK
Nike’s flagship store in Westfield London boasts of a digital experience in-store that is remarkable. At this store, customers can experience the latest men’s and women’s performance running innovations in sportswear, footwear and apparel.Customers can interact with the digital experiences to find the best match for running shoes based on their running style, can choose to watch engaging content like Nike’s technical innovations videos, join running clubs around London including the Nike Westfield Run club, order shoes that may even be out of stock or request assistance from a staff member. The shop associates are equipped with iPads and the store is fully fired by wifi to enable customers to have the best possible experience.
FashionLike: Facebook Connected Clothing hangers at C&A Brasil
C&A Brasil has brought some real time fashion feedback to its stores via Facebook that marries online groupthink with real-world decision making. FashionLike allows anyone who likes a clothing item online at C&A Brasil’s website or on its Facebook to tally up to a thumbs-up on a special display in the clothes hangers on the store’s physical racks.
Based on what the customers style is, they can then make choices: if they are followers of common fashion – they can pick up popular shirts that have bigger likes on them, or they can choose to not follow the crowd and pick the ones that have much lesser likes.
There is however a big flaw in C&A’s FashionLike. An innocent mistake that switches items between hangers could result in very flawed information to customers and potentially very angry customers.
Forever 21’s Closet S.O.S
One of the innovations that retailers are going in for is pop-up stores.
In keeping with this, May 2014 saw fashion retailer Forever 21 promote the opening of its third Costa Rican store with Closet S.O.S: a mobile fashion truck stocked with apparel and accessories. The first 100 customers received a voucher that entitled them to request a visit from the traveling closet during ‘fashion emergencies’: unexpected dates or duplicate party outfits, for example.
Uniqlo’s Magic Mirror
Uniqlo made news when it opened its store in Union Square in San Francisco because of the use of an interesting technology which they called Magic Mirror. Customers could put on the item they wanted to try and walk in front of the Magic Mirror. A touchscreen allowed them to pick from the colours available and let you see how you would look in that particular colour. An innovation that was not only buzz worthy, but also very practical in the way it allowed full access to colours available, without the hassle of queuing for changing rooms!
Burberry goes from .com to in-store
Burberry is set to open its mega flagship store in Regent Street in London, which will be completely digitally integrated through technology.
Full-length screens througout the store that allow not only audio-visual content displays, live-streaming but also act as mirrors when required. The “Burberry World Live” experience will be brought to life as models walk between video screens. For the most appropriate impact – sounds will start softly then crescendo into every space in the store, including fitting rooms.
Realizing that customers likely to shop at Burberry’s how they feel about the product beyond its looks, Burberry will use cool technology in the form of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. Specific clothes will have RFID chips attached to them so that they trigger specific content in areas that will have maximum impact to the customer – like the fitting room – where information about the source of the cloth or the craftsmanship or a video about its launch in a fashion show catwalk will appear.
iPads pre-loaded with information about customers – their purchase history/ preferences/ shopping habits – will be provided to all sales associates. Following Apple – customers will be invited to check out from portable checkout systems or fixed cash registers.
This experience will be the first time that Burberry takes its online brand experience, Burberry.com, to a physical space – the first time it has done so.
What does this mean for retailers?
Omni-channel is the future. The real anywhere, anytime. Retailers who want to thrive in the future can only do so if they stop thinking online and in-store and start thinking of a continuum of the customer experience. It’s not about choices that the retailer will make – it is more about the choice that the customer will make in how and when she wants to interact with the brand. This will mean that retailers will need to measure everything. To use data to understand the customer engagement across every touchpoint. To optimize this experience using technology & platforms.
What’s in it for the consumers?
For consumers, this is potentially a new revolution. Think about how merging retail preferences data with personal data could improve the experience. This could contribute in building anticipative marketing and fill a gap in people’s lives. Retail could suggest a user to buy a jacket by tracking a flight email confirmation to Hong Kong next month. The outputs could be infinite…
The new face of retail will raise questions of privacy: to what extend will people be willing to release their data to third parties? How good, consistent and intelligent has to be the new retail experience to end this debate?
About the author: Tripti Lochan is CEO of VML Qais