The Future of Brick-and-Mortar is Paved With Personalization: How to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Personalization. We’re hearing the buzzword with increasing regularity these days. The question is: What’s driving the demand for acutely curated experiences at retail? Consumers are growing progressively more comfortable in making online purchases. Accustomed to personalized experiences and tailored recommendations in the digital space, shoppers today have heightened expectations when returning to brick-and-mortar stores. These digital-natives expect brands to know who they are and what drives their personal purchasing preferences and decisions.
So how can retailers begin offering their own distinctly personalized experiences at brick-and-mortar stores? The reality is that your brand’s in-store presence must exceed the online experience to justify customers making the trip and venturing into the physical space. Luckily, brands have increasingly more tools and data at their disposal when engaging consumers in-store. They also have a slew of emerging digital technologies and multiple channels outside of the physical store to consider.
I’d advise retailers to start thinking about how they can take the highly personalized, virtual world that shoppers are accustomed to, and translate that experience into physical stores. There’s a range of innovative new technologies that have become readily available, from "smart" digital shelving to interactive kiosks, product selectors and augmented reality (AR) applications. And truth be told, consumers have never been more receptive.
A large percentage of shoppers make unplanned purchases while in-store, and we know that digital signage catches attention. To capture these eyeballs, brands like Kroger and Whole Foods have started implementing “smart” digital shelving that can change promos on the fly, display product nutrition facts, serve up coupons, and run video advertisements. An intuitive portal allows retailers to create hi-def digital content that can be updated remotely with any web-enabled device. What’s more, optical sensors can deliver customized content based on a shopper's age, gender and mood.
Beyond smart shelving, interactive kiosks and product selectors have been emerging with increasing regularity. Brands like Dyson have capitalized on these interactive, in-store tools to educate consumers on new product launches and line extensions. A heritage brand best known for its vacuums, Dyson recently launched a line of hairdryers and utilized interactive kiosks to inform shoppers about new haircare technology and differentiate between individual products.
Firestone Tires is another great example. Brick-and-mortar stores have launched a new product selector that recommends the perfect tire model once shoppers select their make of car, individual needs, and local climate. Founded at the turn of the century, this tire king has evolved with the times, developing a smart product assistant that helps surface information in-store with highly interactive kiosk touchscreens.
In looking at future personalization trends beyond traditional touchscreens, we’re also beginning to see applications of AR and virtual reality (VR) in the retail space. Brands like Lowe's have started implementing technology that allows consumers to draw their room on an iPad, plop prospective furniture into the space, and then view the configuration with an AR headset. Similarly, Macy’s recently rolled out VR headsets at select store locations for customers to use to truly visualize how various furniture pieces will look in their homes — all before any final purchasing decisions have been made. While the trend is just beginning to gain speed, the mass adoption of AR and VR lies just around the corner.
Customers today have become expertly adept at doing product research before ever walking into stores. When shoppers do finally arrive at physical brick-and-mortar stores, the desire to access information continues. In the same way that online shoppers open new tabs to research potential purchases and make price and product comparisons, in-store shoppers will arrive at brick-and-mortar stores with an insatiable appetite for information. Smart shelving, interactive kiosks, and AR/VR applications allow for continued research and exploration once shoppers cross the in-store threshold.
Not only do these emerging technologies pique customer interest, but interactive applications capture customer information like never before. Retailers now have the advantage of sending robust data back to their marketing teams to analyze purchasing behavior and, ultimately, promote further customization. When it comes to personalization, we’re just getting started.
Morgan Van Baren is global vice president of product management and delivery at Mood Media, the world’s leading in-store media solutions company dedicated to elevating the customer experience.
Morgan Van Baren is Global VP of Product Management & Delivery at Mood Media, the world’s leading in-store media solutions company dedicated to elevating the Customer Experience. He is passionate about building and developing new products and technologies and bringing them to market. For more than 15 years, Morgan has been conducting business around the world and has become an internationally recognized subject matter expert in the digital place-based communications industry.