3 Retail Verticals Delivering Cutting-Edge Shopping Experiences
With the threat of online shopping, brick-and-mortar retailers have been forced to embrace the importance of the experiential aspect of their stores to drive repeat foot traffic. It takes something really compelling for the average consumer to go to a physical store instead of ordering whatever they need from the comfort of their own home. Retailers are recognizing this, so they’re starting to invest more into in-store experiences to inspire shoppers to get off the couch. So which areas of retail are developing the most successful, interesting in-store experiences? Here’s a look at three.
When thinking of innovative in-store shopping experiences, the hardware and home improvement industry isn’t typically top-of-mind. However, that’s quickly starting to change. Over the last few years, retailers in this category have begun adopting new and innovative tech that’s transforming the way customers shop at their stores. Earlier this year, Lowe's partnered with Google to launch Lowe’s Vision, an augmented reality (AR) navigation app to provide indoor mapping functionalities for customers to search and quickly find items in-store. Ikea has recognized the power that AR can have on the customer journey as well. The Swedish furniture giant now offers customers an app that allows them to digitally overlay furniture or paint in a given home space and test out various arrangement combinations before shelling out cash on products they might be dissatisfied with later.
Whether it’s getting a feel for how a layout works or how a product goes with a certain shade of paint, this solution gives customers some perspective before making a big purchase.
On the other end of the spectrum, fashion retail has also been quick to emphasize the in-store customer experience. With more than 1,700 stores across the globe, Uniqlo is one company known for keeping the customer top-of-mind. One attractive feature of Uniqlo's stores is that they offer free alterations within 24 hours for purchases of at least $20. This ensures that any item purchased fits the shopper the right way. Another example of a good in-store experience can be found with luxury brand Rebecca Minkoff. The company has equipped its fitting rooms with “smart mirrors” that allow customers to search for other sizes, or products that might go with what they’re trying on (companies like Oak Labs power this type of experience for retail).
Shopping for clothes is a mixed bag and, at times, it can be an anxiety-ridden experience. Providing shoppers with a way to test different outfit combos through tech — as well as a quick, easy way to alter clothing that might not fit at first — goes a long way to reducing the stress on shoppers’ minds and wallets.
Sporting Goods and Apparel
According to a study by the National Association of Sporting Goods Retailers, nine out of 10 sporting goods shoppers visit a physical store before making a purchase. One way the companies in this category have been so successful at attracting customers to their stores is by creating worthwhile in-store experiences. No other sporting goods store can hold a candle to what Nike is doing at one New York City location. The company’s SoHo store takes customer experience to the next level with a “playground” consisting of a small soccer field, a basketball court and treadmills. This allows shoppers to test out any potential purchases before making them final. Another example is Under Armour, which, according to Jason Schwab of RetailSpaces, recently “utilized VR to create buzz around new store locations, giving customers a sneak peak into its high concept Brand House stores before they even open.”
Sports apparel, in particular, lends itself to an interactive in-store experience. People looking for new sports gear can try it on and use it in-store before they make a purchase, rather than waiting for it to arrive at their home. Consumers in the market for these items want to know how they’re going to perform and feel. Therefore, developing an in-store experience like Nike’s could help attract new, loyal customers to a brand.
As technology continues to evolve, so will the customer in-store experience. We’ve only scratched the surface on what retailers can do to draw customers into their stores, drive them to buy and get them coming back. Expect the in-store experience to continue to grow even more within the retail industry.
Doug Baldasare is the CEO of ChargeItSpot, a provider of secure cell phone charging stations for retail stores.
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