The Takeaway: A recent survey highlighted the need for excellent in-store experiences, and getting there requires using digital tools in-store to support those experiences. Here are five brands that get it.
The science fiction world of retail, where physical shopping is fueled by digital tech, is way closer to reality than you might think.Your customers still want to shop in-store, but they don't want that experience to be siloed off from their digital interactions with your brand. We know this thanks to a survey conducted by Pragma Consulting. As reported by Forbes' Fiona Briggs, 84 percent of consumers prefer to browse for and research products online, but 53 percent said they would rather come to a purchase decision in-store.
Shoppers want to physically see, touch and try out products before they buy them but after they've thoroughly researched them. They demand extra product info before they commit to a purchase. Seventy-six percent of consumers go to brick-and-mortar locations for "care and support" from sales reps.
Whether that means arming in-store staff with iPads that provide product content or enabling shoppers to discover that information more easily with in-store digital experiences is up to you. In other words, there's a huge opportunity here for retailers to stand out.
Take Apple Stores, for example. We've talked about the brand's ability to blend physical shopping with digital experiences before, and Pragma's Jacob Gascoine-Becker pointed to the same example: In-store specialists use modified iPod Touches and iPads to enhance the experience.
But what other brands and retailers are doing cool stuff in their physical locations with technology? Here are five companies that offer best-in-class in-store digital experiences.
Luxury retail is fully embracing digital in-store experiences, as retailers like Barneys New York realize that competing on price is out of the question. As a result, the store is focusing on customer experience and how digital fits into that equation.
Chain Store Age reported that Barneys "combines the best of physical and digital retail" by giving both its customers and its retail staff access to tech. On the consumer side of things, the retailer uses in-store beacons to send product content - videos, designer interviews and more - directly to shoppers' smartphones while they browse. Customers will also receive notifications if something on their ecommerce wishlist or shopping cart is near them physically.
Then there's the "clienteling app" which retail staff can use to access consumers' information, product content and inventory data. Those employees can also ring up shoppers on those same tablets.
2. Rebecca Minkoff
If you want to see the future of luxury retail, visit the NYC Rebecca Minkoff store. This brand's digital in-store experience truly sets the bar.
In short, this "connected store" provides the "best of the online world" in a physical location. Shoppers can browse as usual or these can shop via the "connected wall" - a giant touchscreen/mirror that allows customers to swipe through available products, among other things.
If something catches your eye on the connected wall, you can simply tap "Add items to my room." Then, when those clothes have been added to a dressing room, you get a text message. And to check out, just tap the changing room mirrors.
That description hardly does Rebecca Minkoff's digital in-store experience justice, so check out this video to get a better idea:
In the past, we've talked about Lowe's foray into virtual reality-enhanced shopping. But that's not the only in-store tech that the retailer is dabbling with.
Fast Company explained that Lowe's partnered with Google to create "Vision" - an app that leverages Google's Tango to allow consumers to measure their homes and virtually envision how furniture will fit and look in those spaces. Then, when it's time to make a purchase decision, customers will head into stores, and their smartphones will identify where those products are physically located as well as provide customer reviews for those items. Talk about next-generation seamless digital to physical shopping experiences.
4. Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble recently announced that it's reinventing shopping at its brick-and-mortar locations and optimizing its ecommerce site. The key to this retailer's success will be integrating those shopping experiences.
RIS News reported that B&N will "gear [stores] for discovery" by supporting booksellers' mobile devices and giving customers an app that provides a digital map of these locations and where to find books. For the former, devices placed around stores will allow shoppers to learn more about books, even text sellers for more info. Meanwhile, the B&N app and site get a facelift to better serve customers and their product content needs while they shop.
Special shout out to Nike for placing first in RIS News' Top 10 eCommerce Retailers list. The brand has 12 different iOS apps that give customers access to product information and Nike+ events. It also seamlessly merges physical shopping experiences with digital interactions by bringing online shoppers into stores with training sessions and more.
The results speak for themselves: Internet Retailer reported that Nike's ecommerce sales grew 51 percent year-over-year, and since 2012, it has tripled its online sales.
And Nike isn't slowing down anytime soon. It hopes to earn $7 billion via ecommerce by 2020, and to do so, the brand is partnering with retailers to even more seamlessly blend digital and physical shopping experiences.
It's time to capitalize on shoppers' demands for distributed commerce, and that means seamlessly connecting digital shopping experiences with physical ones to allow customers to buy how they want, when they want.