There has been a significant shift in what consumers expect from their in-store experiences. Retailers are working harder than ever to deliver a seamless shopping journey for their customers to cater to this change and come out as a winner in a competitive landscape. Only those that transform their stores for innovation will continue to thrive in today’s environment.
Recently, we’ve seen many retailers that have implemented the right in-store technology to deliver enhanced customer experiences that create unique opportunities to drive shopper engagement and loyalty. For example, Nike’s new flagship store in New York, dubbed “House of Innovation 000,” embodies the store of the future, with an app that creates digitally connected journeys for consumers to utilize mobile checkout, request try-on items throughout the store, or instantly shop in-store displays. Moves to make the shopping experience more frictionless have also been a major trend following the path set by Amazon.com in the U.S. and Alibaba in Asia. Grocers such as Kroger have been quick to react with the launch of its "Scan, Bag, Go" technology last year, and many others have launched new technologies to accelerate the checkout experience.
All in all, brick-and-mortar retailers have a big opportunity to leverage digital technologies to transform the store and keep up with shoppers’ demands, whether it be “scan and go,” personalization or buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). Let’s take a look at what retailers should evaluate when working towards in-store digital transformation, and how they can create real value for their customers.
Adapt Your IT Infrastructure
The major challenge for retailers is trying to use legacy technology, built for a different age and not designed to implement new in-store IT innovations. However, contrary to popular belief, achieving innovation doesn't require an expensive "rip and replace" procedure to underpin digital transformation. In fact, retailers can invest in infrastructure that future-proofs their business with existing in-store IT, using technology that’s available today. By deploying architecture that's purpose built for retailers, they can create an agile infrastructure across the entire store, reducing costs and optimizing operations for faster innovation. Having the right IT infrastructure will allow retailers to undergo true transformation across the entire store.
Bridge Offline and Online Components
According to RetailMeNot, 85 percent of Americans shop in a nongrocery retail store during a typical week, and 38 percent of shoppers who begin their journey on a smartphone complete their purchase in a physical store. More and more consumers are browsing and researching on mobile devices before going into the store and making a purchase. Because of this behavior, retailers should make sure to engage and connect both offline and online components to create a seamless and connected experience.
For example, let’s say a consumer is getting started on their Christmas shopping. They go online to each retailer’s site to create an online shopping list or bookmark particular items. Once they decide which gifts to buy, they can check the inventory, order and pick up in-store, and receive personalized promotional offers via the retailer’s mobile app.
All of these online and in-store digital components work together in conjunction to offer the shopper a complete connected experience, increasing both customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.
Review Store IT Management Efficiency
Many retailers today are using both old and new appliances, all running on different operating systems. By relying on IT teams to visit the stores when there’s faults, the system poses several issues that can be avoided. The burden on IT teams and the cost of downtime in-store is significant, and if a security threat arises, the reputation of the brand could be severely compromised. Retailers that are working towards in-store digital transformation should consider virtualizing their in-store IT onto a smaller physical footprint and preparing all technology in-store for rapid automation and remote management. By doing so, retailers can manage all the store technology comprehensively from a central location, creating a more efficient and cost-effective process, quickly resolving any issues that arise.
Put the Right Technology in Store Associates’ Hands
The same survey from RetailMeNot reveals that 69 percent of in-store shoppers would prefer to check a product review on their phone instead of asking a store associate. This finding demonstrates that there's a strong need to equip store associates with the knowledge and technology necessary to deliver differentiating experiences that encourage customers to shop in-store and rely on store associates as trusted resources.
Store associates are key ambassadors for retailers and they must be empowered to help them become experts on the products they're selling and reliable sources for customers. To do this, retailers should digitize the store so that associates aren’t stuck behind checkout devices that limit their efficiency and ability to serve. The Tulip Retail Survey reveals that almost three-quarters of customers who dealt with a store associate using a mobile device to provide things like product info, credit card checkout, and inventory lookup said it resulted in a better shopping experience. By equipping associates with the right mobile technology in-store, retailers can turn employees into valuable advisors for their shoppers.
The journey towards digital in-store transformation begins with evaluating these components and moving towards an IT environment that supports the flexibility and innovation that customers demand. These key elements are crucial to delivering an innovative in-store experience that fosters customer loyalty and stands out among the competition.
Nick East is the CEO of Zynstra, intelligent infrastructure that is transforming edge computing for retailers.