How technology is transforming the bricks-and-mortar retail space

Shopping experiences have undeniably changed over the last ten years. Technology is transforming our daily lives and customers are now far more empowered to seek out product information, because of the huge array of it readily available online at their disposal.

Technology offers endless possibilities to enrich not only the online experience, but physical stores too, creating immersive and enjoyable shopping experiences. The key to a customer experience strategy that delivers a positive and lasting impact is one which blurs the lines of traditional retail enhanced with cutting-edge technology. It can ultimately be boiled down to three main areas:

1. Product demos: The value of a piece of technology can only truly be realised when it is experienced first-hand. It’s all well and good being told that a TV has over 1000 PQI (picture quality index), but what does that even mean? For most of us, very little unless we’re able to experience this high-definition first-hand. Displaying and showcasing products with interactive demonstrations will enable retailers to create a stronger connection with customers. In our research, the top three reasons consumers give for shopping in-store indicate that they want to experience a product before purchasing. 51 per cent prefer to go and look at a product, 27 per cent want to check its quality and 24 per cent want to feel and use the product before buying.

2. Trained brand ambassadors: Experienced staff with far-reaching product knowledge can elevate a brand and provide consumers with the confidence to make a purchase. One clear example of this is in the case of a major camera brand. Data from Retail Marketing Group’s brand ambassadors showed that a startling 44 per cent of consumers had not previously planned to purchase the brand’s camera on the day, instead deciding to impulse-buy. Interestingly, in this study, 70 per cent of shoppers who bought the camera were also first-time buyers in this product category. This means that a clear majority required more information in-store from the sales team before deciding to purchase. Converting such a high-ticket item to a sale without prior intention to buy, highlights the significance of in-store brand ambassadors.

3. Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality: These will play a huge role in shaping the future customer experience. Virtual reality allows a brand to be creative in the content it produces, using technology to emotionally connect with customers. We know that increasingly tech-savvy customers desire this technology in-store, but our research showed that 34 per cent of shoppers wouldn’t feel comfortable operating these types of technology independently. The right blend of humans and technology in the store environment is set to be a key differentiator for brands, driving footfall and strengthening relationships with customers.

The key to success

Bricks and mortar retail is very much alive, but that doesn’t mean to say it will not be threatened by online stores if they remain mere places for transactions. High street and outlet stores have a great future, but the need for retailers to innovate and keep the customer’s attention has never been higher. Above all, retailers must ensure that their stores are places that make consumers want to keep coming back. Experience is more important than ever.

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