The distinction between e-commerce and retail is breaking down, and retailers are looking to fully integrate their online and in-store experiences.
Over the last few years many companies have begun experimenting with omnichannel experiences, and have generated lots of senior roles in the process. But, though we’ve seen plenty of advances online, with a few notable exceptions, we’re yet to see an abundance of digitally integrated in-store experiences.
So what exactly does a digitally integrated store look like? And why are companies starting to look at them now?
There’s a big problem facing many e-tailers: how do you replicate the level of customer experience consumers enjoy in-store when shopping online?
Human interaction plays a large role in the consumer’s experience, and can often be the decisive factor that leads consumers to decide whether to make a purchase or not.
But, though many companies have tried to replicate this level of customer service online, doing so seems nigh on impossible – human interaction just doesn’t seem to be imitable on digital platforms.
In response to this, some brands which have both a brick-and-mortar and online operation have begun to work the other way around, and are using digital technology to augment their in-store experiences.
So, whilst not commonplace yet, digitally enhanced stores may just represent the next wave of online and offline convergence.
And this is exciting.
The flagship Alexander McQueen store in London, for example, have introduced two interactive experiences. The first, visible as soon as you enter, is a large table with a white screen embedded to the left. The table lets you play with the latest collections and, with the flick of a finger, allows you to project them on the big screen. The second, an interactive digital mirror, is located upstairs, and lets you take a photograph in your new outfit and send it to a friend via Facebook, etc.
Similarly, some Rebecca Minkoff stores have been kitted out with interactive dressing rooms featuring touch-screen mirrors that let customers request different sizes and send information about their session to their phones. The store captures this data and uses it to learn about consumers preferences and desires.
Furthermore, Apple, for a few years now, have allowed you to buy off-the-shelf items using an app on your smartphone, meaning consumers are able to avoid waiting in line to checkout. And some are saying that this may soon be commonplace in most stores.
This isn’t nearly a comprehensive list – from Shiseido’s Makeup interactive mirror, that lets you try on makeup without ever touching your face, to De Beers’ online fitting room, Forevermark Fitting, and from IKEA’s AR catalogue, that allows you to visualise pieces of furniture in your house, to IBM’s product information app, that gives you product information whilst browsing the shelves, there are a lot of innovations that use technology to make shopping a more convenient enjoyable experience.
The combination of a digitally integrated store and substantial online presence looks to be extremely powerful.
So, do you think digitally integrated and enhanced stores are the next big thing in retail? And what technologies are you excited about seeing in-store?
Let me know your thoughts below.