Technology That Will Take the Brick-and-Mortar Experience to the Next Level
The rise of online shopping has brought many benefits with it — convenience, an expanded selection of products and competitive prices. One of the most dramatic side effects of the online shopping phenomenon, however, is that it's forced us to re-examine the traditional brick-and-mortar shopping experience.
We’ve learned that the in-store shopping experience isn’t easily replicated — and it certainly isn’t going to be phased out like landline telephones. Rather, shopping in a brick-and-mortar store continues to provide real value to customers.
Physical retailers can no longer expect to succeed by conducting business as usual. The ball is in their court, and they must respond by maximizing cutting-edge technologies, merging the digital and physical experiences, and devising new methods of in-store customer engagement.
Enhance the Customer Experience
The innovations made possible by ubiquitous mobile broadband technology aren’t limited to the tech world. However, many retailers have been reluctant to take advantage of technological tools that bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar shopping.
Given the notoriously thin margins under which most retailers operate (and the high fixed costs for necessities like rent and labor), it’s understandable that retailers might be reluctant to invest heavily in technology without a clear picture of the return on investment. This reluctance shouldn’t hold retailers back from success in today’s market. The key is to avoid using technology simply for technology’s sake.
Technology needs to be incorporated organically in ways that consumers will find engaging and innovative. Some examples of the innovations that can easily be incorporated into the retail experience include the following:
- Smart shelves: Manual inventory is costly and prone to error. According to Harvard Business Review, retailers lose 4 percent of their annual revenues to empty shelves. Therefore, many stores are turning to digital shelf management that alerts employees to out-of-stock items and allows for price changes on the fly.
- Retail apps: Apps can transform a shopper's in-store experience in a variety of ways, including personalized promotions, detailed product descriptions and inventory notifications.
- Tablets: Whether they’re in employees’ hands or installed as kiosks for customer use, tablets allow stores to communicate a limitless amount of information that can be constantly updated.
Integrate E-Commerce Convenience
Shoppers flock to online outlets for convenience, but they still crave the level of engagement that's only possible when visiting a brick-and-mortar store. To flourish in the contemporary landscape, savvy retailers should remember this principle when developing new marketing strategies.
Success lies in making the in-store experience more convenient for customers while emphasizing personalization. For instance, if a consumer browsing online indicates that she's interested in visiting the store to see an item in person, she could be notified if that item is out of stock — and alerted again once the store’s inventory is replenished.
The retail landscape has shifted dramatically in the past decade; consumers now visit brick-and-mortar stores out of desire rather than need. More businesses are turning to technology to enhance the experience, with innovations such as tablet kiosks and smart shelves popping up next to traditional shelves.
Since the "next big thing" is always on the horizon, retailers must constantly update their technological foundations to drive customer engagement and make the in-store experience as innovative as the virtual one.
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell, a public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations and consumer engagement.
Sarah Clark is the president of Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City.
Mitchell is part of Dentsu Aegis Network, which is made up of nine global network brands and supported by its specialist/multimarket brands. Dentsu Aegis Network is Innovating the Way Brands Are Built for its clients through its best-in-class expertise and capabilities in media, digital, and creative communications services. Offering a distinctive and innovative range of products and services, Dentsu Aegis Network is headquartered in London and operates in 145 countries worldwide with over 30,000 dedicated specialists.
Clark is one of the top strategic communications professionals in the country, with more than 25 years of experience in corporate communications and an exceptional track record in protecting corporate reputations and redefining perceptions in key areas of business.