Organizing for Omnichannel: What's Next?
A reported 40 percent of consumers consult three or more channels before making a purchase, and 80 percent rely on their smartphones to shop. In an era when people spend nearly five hours on their phones each day, it’s critical that retailers consider how they can deliver meaningful content to consumers through digital channels.
Of course, this isn’t to say that brands should simply close their physical stores and focus entirely on digital. People like to go out, shop with their friends and see products in person. In fact, 78 percent of consumers say they prefer to shop in-store, with 73 percent stating that they like to try on or touch merchandise before making a purchase, according to a recent report from the International Council of Shopping Centers.
The key to reaching these consumers is to implement omnichannel strategies that create more seamless, innovative and unified experiences. Foundational to these omnichannel strategies are technologies that can bridge the divide between in-store and online retailing.
Retailers are increasingly tapping modern technologies — e.g., RFID, mobile and geolocation tools — to help them deliver the convenience and efficiency of online shopping in-store. In doing so, brands are able to offer best-in-class service sure to enhance consumer engagement, drive sales and improve their bottom lines.
The Introduction of Connected Associates
There’s nothing worse than trekking to the mall only to find that the item you’re seeking cannot be found. This happens far too often, with a recent Google survey reporting that two-thirds of shoppers fail to locate the item or information they initially set out to acquire. To prevent these annoying occurrences — and the likely possibility of losing a sale — brands will increasingly equip store associates with mobile devices that can track requests from throughout the store. According to Forrester Research, 69 percent of store associates will be equipped with mobile devices to connect, organize and manage all in-store customer requests, in addition to capturing all interaction data for use in performance analysis.
Sales associates will also be able to stay connected via RFID technology, which helps keep inventory information up to date. Associates can then rely on this more accurate inventory information, which is being communicated to them through their handheld device. As a result, consumers experience the same efficiency and reliability that they’ve come to appreciate when they shop online — with an added personal touch.
The Materialization of the Modern Mannequin
You can expect the emergence of the “modern mannequin” in the months ahead. Smart mannequins connect with consumers’ smartphones via beacons to present product information for items that are on display (e.g., customer reviews), and they can also give shoppers additional product recommendations and the option to request store associates to assist with merchandise.
For example, a shopper may stop to admire a hat displayed on a nearby mannequin. Without having to grab the hat to determine its price, beacon technology will detect the shopper’s close proximity to the mannequin and deliver crucial information such as the cost of the hat and other available sizes and colors.
The Rise of the Smart Fitting Room
Retailers are now able to better engage shoppers using in-room digital displays that showcase RFID-tagged merchandise brought into the fitting room. In addition to sharing “pop up” information about the items in the room, the displays can also provide additional recommendations based on a customer’s previous search and purchase history. With this information at hand, store associates can quickly get a sense of a shopper’s style and interests, enabling them to more effectively recommend products that they’re likely to buy.
Imagine for a moment a high school girl in search of the perfect prom dress. This girl has been in the store several times and has “favorited” numerous dresses on the retailer’s website. By looking at her browsing history in one easy-to-use platform, retailers can quickly get a sense of what she has in mind and pull up dress options that are sure to be of interest.
From store windows to the sales floor and into the dressing room, retail shops are drastically and quickly changing — and for the better. Using technologies like RFID and geolocation and equipping store associates with tablets, retailers can connect the digital and physical worlds to create a seamless, omnichannel experience that enables a more efficient and engaging in-store shopping experience. By unlocking consumer interests — and clarifying how they align with departmental offerings — retailers will be able to improve customer experiences, strengthen operations and improve brand profitability.
Eric Shea is a partner at Kurt Salmon Digital, a full-service digital design consultancy helping leading retailers to meet the needs of connected consumers.