One sector of the retail industry that has taken a beating the past few years has been brick-and-mortar stores. And it’s no wonder; online spending continues to climb. Store closures across the country are happening in record numbers, with 8,600 stores closing in 2017. Predictions of retail’s demise make headlines. However, these calls are overblown, as savvy retailers are working to increase same-store sales by learning to blend the best of both worlds by creating in-store interactive digital experiences.
eMarketer forecasts e-commerce spending will account for almost 10 percent of U.S. retail sales by 2019. That means 90 percent of purchases are still made in physical stores. For many consumers, the convenience of online shopping is no substitute for seeing and interacting with products in person. Even the largest e-tailers recognize this, as evidenced by Amazon.com's recent acquisition of Whole Foods. To better service this new breed of consumer, retailers are quickly adapting by investing in interactive technologies to enhance in-store convenience and create meaningful experiences.
Here are three areas where digital experiences are set to take off in 2018:
Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS)
BOPIS is a perfect example of the link between online and in-store experiences. By encouraging customers to visit a physical location to pick up their online purchases, retailers are discovering new ways in which sales associates can interact with customers. Not only are wait times reduced, but by knowing orders ahead of time, sales associates are better informed to make recommendations and suggestions for upsell opportunities.
For example, when a customer picks up a TV that was purchased online, the sales associate can suggest a specific brand of sound bar to accompany it. Choosing the right artificial intelligence-driven software can also streamline the ability to add in warrantees or rewards, strengthening customer loyalty.
Self-service will mature in 2018, as retailers discover some surprising benefits. The self-service kiosk trend initially began as a convenience for shoppers, but they can also be useful for employee training and help stores and restaurants run more efficiently. For customers, this reduces the likelihood of order mistakes. Self-service kiosks with interactive touchscreens also enable customers to pull up past orders and preferences to assist with purchasing decisions.
Employees can also use this information to their benefit when interacting with customers, as they can make more well-informed and strategic upsell and cross-sell recommendations. Operations are streamlined by reducing waste from orders that needed to be remade, thereby cutting costs.
Interactive Fitting Rooms
One of the more promising examples of in-store technology is happening in the fitting room. By installing digital touchscreens, retailers instantly enhance the shopping experience while also expanding the store’s inventory. For example, when trying on clothes, shoppers can receive intelligent pairings and suggestions. Feeling fabulous in that shirt? Check out this great pair of earrings available to go with it. Pants too large but it’s the only size left? No worries, the store’s entire range of sizes (and colors) online is now literally right at your fingertips.
The convenience of online shopping has had a profound impact on retail in a relatively short period of time. But the fact remains that there will always be a place for physical stores. Despite the rash of store closures, retailers are adapting. Those that embrace this digital transformation by bringing new interactive technologies in-store will be the ones to thrive, while those that don’t will only make room for a new breed of experience-driven retailers.
Luke Wilwerding is director of retail solutions at Elo, a company that makes touchscreen displays, monitors, computers and touch screen components.
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