Bridging the Physical and Digital Experience in Today’s Retail Industry
Today’s retail shoppers are hooked on the digital experience. They can search for products, read reviews, compare pricing, see what options are available, and participate in a brand’s omni-channel initiative – that overarching principle that connects their customer service, their social presence, and all of their other online properties.
To most consumers, a retail brand that offers anything less is simply “less than” and so companies must rise to the demand or risk being overshadowed by the competition.
The retail industry as we have known it is in a state of transformation. Whether companies choose to see this as a crisis or an opportunity is entirely up to them, but the reality is that the opportunities are truly exciting while the alternative is the death knell.
You’re no longer selling goods, you are selling experiences
Today, it’s less about selling things than it is about the experience of buying those things. The experiences are what’s driving the movement, but it’s the technology facilitating these experiences that is making it all possible. It’s about creating a bridge between the physical and the digital and today’s consumers will accept nothing less.
Some of the top trends in retail that support an experiential philosophy include:
Smart beacons are essentially IoT devices that work over a Bluetooth connection. They alert retailers to the proximity of customers who use their app or who are in their loyalty program so that they can deliver timely, targeted offers and promotions like discount codes or special offers. For instance, a customer who is approaching the store in a mall or on the street may receive an alert offering them a discount or incentive to bring them in.
A recent study shows that 82 percent of in-store shoppers consult their smartphone for reviews and pricing before making a purchase. That alone should be compelling enough evidence to prove its value. The more visible aspects include mobile-friendly (responsive) websites, mobile apps, mobile reviews, and mobile payment applications. In some stores, you can even purchase your selections from any sales associate on the floor via their mobile checkout device.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI leverages customer data to improve the retail experience. It is helping retailers streamline their loyalty programs, deliver better customer service, and predict buying behavior in the store itself. AI leverages behavioral and buying data and delivers offers based on the consumer’s individual preferences, recommending new products and rewarding the buyer for their loyalty in real-time.
Virtual reality and augmented reality (VR and AR)
VR and AR add value to AI, delivering loads of data on customer preferences and behaviors that can then be leveraged towards future offers. Virtual mirrors can respond to gestures and touches, allowing shoppers to make selections without trying anything on – from apparel to makeup and accessories. Even better, since it’s virtual, shoppers can have access to the entire supply inventory and not be limited to what’s on hand.
These are just some of the ways today’s retailers are bridging the gap between the physical and digital experience. This is just part of our blog series on digital transformation in retail. Check back soon for more insights on how you can leverage these trends to improve your retail customer experience.
Great article Jim. Found the part about Smart Beacons quite interesting – I haven’t seen them in Australia yet (or perhaps just not aware of their usage), but their intent and possibility seems quite powerful for both the store owner and customers. The use of virtual reality or augmented reality in a retail setting would place pressure on the need for physical stores and would really want the big online stores like Amazon or Ali Express to put this in practice.