It has been suggested that stores will need to use technology as a competitive advantage to create unique and personal experiences¹. Both consumers and workers have seen retail space continue to grow and develop throughout recent years with a shift in dynamics, meaning that stores are becoming fewer and smaller, yet providing more of an impact to the customer. Stores are downsizing their physical footprints, giving a ‘less cluttered’ appearance to make room for a more creative environment which will blend into our lives with a much more positive flow.
Stores are rapidly becoming centred around the shopper, rather than traditionally centred around sales. Technology is allowing brick and mortar retailers to develop and understand personalised experiences for shoppers, in a similar way that eCommerce already does. According to Google, 75% of shoppers are more likely to visit brick-and-mortar stores if they find helpful local retail information in online search results²; introducing Omni-channel retailing. Values are being redefined as the average customer is becoming hyper-connected. Attributing to this, we are able to see that loyalty is becoming delicate as choice increases around all retail areas. It is believed that we will see more disruption in the next 10 years of retail than we did in the previous 1,000³. The key drivers for retailers’ success in the coming years will be centred upon a deep understanding of the customer and how best to connect and further empower them whilst embracing transformative online and offline business models and expediting opportunities.
New technologies are hoping to combat ‘showrooming’ (‘the practice of shoppers using retail stores to discover products they'd like to buy, then completing their purchases online where they can find better deals’⁴). By offering no queue time with mPOS solutions, and even ‘pick up and walk out’ technologies, retailers will have the opportunity to utilize the impulse buyer. In addition to this, the use of technologies such as beacons and/or sensors placed around stores will allow retailers to communicate on a much more personalised level with their customers; In-store technologies like video analytics, beacons, mesh network and Wi-Fi are able to track the path the customer takes through stores, and what items shoppers stop to browse and pick up. Other technologies being developed and tested such as ‘smart shelves’ identify key demographic information about a customer⁵. This definitely adds a custom feel to the shopper, and will encourage increased brand loyalty also.
In moving towards a new retail future, a beginning trend this year introduces ‘vcommerce’ – A term coined from Virtual Reality Commerce. Vcommerce is absolutely changing the “face” of retail – and not just because consumers are covering their eyes with VR goggles. The concept of a completely personalised, individually curated consumer experience showcasing products you desire, in an environment you relate to, without leaving your house is enough to whet the shopping appetite of even the most frugal consumer⁶. Retailers have already begun to introduce new technology into their stores to entice consumers in, such as the below VR video done by Topshop (2017) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ENEtE81AOQ#action=share) in the brand’s ‘interactive pool scene’ designed to introduce their summer range. Continuing the interactivity, Topshop also offered a branded Snapchat lens, backing their VR campaign. This technology can be seen as a complimentary addition to the brick and mortar stores to enhance the customer experience and encourage physical shopping.
On top of introducing new technologies in-store, retailers’ are beginning to understand that a shopper who buys both in-store and online is their most valuable customer, as these shoppers have a 30% higher lifetime value⁷ than those only using a single channel, therefore reinforcing the ideal of Omni-channel retailing. In order to excel within the current and ever-changing retail environment, retailers’ must adapt and continue to increase their instore (and out of store) technology to keep up the interest of the new generation.