Brick and mortar continues to redefine itself with an updated look thanks to the Internet of Things driving customer engagement with tactile and sensorial experiences and turning the store back into a competitive advantage for brands and retailers. Hardware and software companies are working hard to stay ahead of the technology curve that continues to drive consumer demands and expectations. But while, companies like IBM, Intel and Elo are leading the charge, only about 20 percent of retailers can currently provide a highly personalized and digitally integrated in-store shopping experience.
At the start of the year, many headlines questioned “is brick and mortar dead?” with the closings of hundreds of major retail chain stores like Macy’s and Sears, but despite the rising popularity of e-commerce, 85 percent of consumers, despite living a digital life stated they still prefer to shop in-store according to a recent IBM study. And via a survey of 15,000 Generation Z participants, aged 13-21 who have $44 billion in buying power, another study concluded that despite living largely digital lives, 67 percent prefer to shop in a brick-and-mortar store all the time, with another 31 percent preferring to shop in-store sometimes.
Smart Dressing Rooms
Via strong merchandising and stylized visual displays it can be easy to seduce a customer to try on the look, but when the fit isn’t a match and the nearest sales associate is difficult to find, sales fall short. Now with the integration of smart fitting rooms, fitted with RFID technology that can automatically detect which items a customer takes in to try on, items brought in by a customer can be automatically displayed to show product information including alternative size and style options, and allow shoppers to send mobile alerts to staff to request additional items of interest.
As deployed by retailers such as Ralph Lauren, a “call an associate” button connects to a salesperson’s tablet on the floor to call them to the fitting room. Additional features like personalized in-room lighting settings and language options help enhance the fitting room experience. With these embedded sensors and real-time analytics, retailers are changing the way they can manage merchandise and learn more about their customers by studying sales-conversation rates and tracking which articles get tried most often, but often don’t get bought.
For the cosmetic industry, women are often assisted by a trained and licensed make-up professional. They can contour, highlight and accent all of our best features. And then we go home and ask ourselves “now, how did they do that?” With the power of Memomi, mirrors can now record and catalogue every step of the process and provide personalized take-home tutorials broken down into lips, eyes, and cheeks directly from the pros. By empowering consumers with pro-tips on how to use a product, it increases confidence for he or she to take more risks on purchases in the future.
While these are not new, hardware and software companies are working hard to make them better. Fusing real life and digital capabilities, brands can empower customers and offer endless aisle solutions with mirrors that provide the real time ability to change colors and patterns and/or instantly add accessories and other items to create the perfect look all without leaving the store floor. As seen in Neiman Marcus, shoppers can change the color of their outfit on screen as much as they want to determine which color they prefer without having to change their clothes for every option. To further the customer experience, the undecided shopper can also get real time assistance in choosing between two colors by comparing two looks side-by-side. In turn the retailer gains information of what colors are most tested, which convert to sales and which do not
Dynamic and Responsive Signage
Through a powerful integration of an LCD screen, an optical sensor, a device sensor and cloud computing, in-store signage is getting personal and dynamic. Affectiva from MIT Labs, enables retailers to use facial tracking to generate invaluable emotional insights the inform digital displays and in-store signage. Sensing up to 7 human emotions (including anger, sadness, disgust, joy, surprise, fear and contempt) up to 15 varying facial expressions, age range and gender, their recognition technology analyzes pixels in those regions to classify facial expressions and mapping them to associated emotion emojis. In partnership with Affectiva, Cloverleaf launched a dynamic digital display and in its first 10 weeks of its pilot stage, their client saw a 37% lift in in-store sales.
A Higher Level of Education via Augmented Reality
One benefit online, is that a customer can readily learn more and dive into the details of a product (fabric, ingredients, product comparisons). In store has the benefit of touch and feel, but with the integration of augmented reality, a customer can now have both at their fingertips. AR can bring a product to life right before the customer’s eyes with realistic 3-dimensional holograms making it easier for them to visualize and understand the intricate features of a product giving them more confidence to purchase. It also enables customers to explore additional options and make personalized modifications while shopping.
In order to stay alive in this dynamic and quickly changing retail climate, brands must deliver environments that encourage high impact engagements with compelling personalization and delightful yet purposeful surprises. And while the tools to do so exist, integration needs to be approached with a “customer first” mindset. A focus on making the journey more rewarding, easier and more personal via value-add technologies.