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Future of Retail: Technology makes better in-store experiences

How retail technology is the future to driving more in-store

Richard Titmuss, Commercial Senior Client Manager at Brother UK

Why do people visit retail stores?

At one time, the answer was simple – to buy things. But, in a world where it’s easy to order virtually anything you can find in the shops online and have it delivered to your door, often for the most competitive price available, what incentive remains to visit physical outlets?

The answer is the experience.

Online shopping doesn’t yet have an equivalent to trying on a piece of clothing, playing with the user interface of a device or tasting a sample of food before deciding to make a purchase – no matter how immersive the online marketing, it can never really replicate these experiences.

And that’s not all the physical shopping experience offers.

It also has an important role to play as a shared social space. Sociologists refer to this as the third space - the first being the home and the second the workplace.

In the age of online shopping, shops need to see themselves as places where people socialise, work and enjoy entertainment.

Come for the shared space, stay for the retail

The race is on to rethink the function of physical shops, and giving people a reason to spend time there, and retailers are getting increasingly creative about what they’re offering.

As people’s working lives become increasingly flexible, the importance of shared spaces that are comfortable, welcoming and convenient is growing. Starbucks is a famous example of a success story in this area, but more and more shops are beginning to offer quiet spaces where people can sit and work, access a wireless connection and charging point and – most importantly for retailers – buy products.

This may also mean embracing local community activities and inviting people to hold yoga classes, reading groups or parent-and-child sessions in store.

However, beyond this there is huge potential for retailers to deliver customer experiences that are highly immersive and entertaining and that will allow today’s easily distracted customers to ‘live the brand’ in new and spectacular ways.

We’re seeing new examples of this all the time, whether it’s the 50-ft-wide 6k video wall at Apple’s new store in San Francisco, McDonalds’ interactive kiosks allowing customers to build their own burger or Tommy Hilfiger’s virtual reality catwalk.

Making customer service more personalised and/or specialised is also a big part of it and technology will be at the heart of this.

We’re already seeing individually tailored offers, wayfinding apps that help customers navigate to the most relevant products in store based on their buying habits and even loyalty cards with built-in transmitters that detect when customers enter or pass by the store, so promotions can be timed accordingly.

Competition will probably be the main driver for retailers adopting this third-space mind-set, as customers vote with their feet for the retail experiences they enjoy the most.

With this in mind, there is a host of exciting opportunities for IT managers in retail to steal a march on the competition by using technology to wow customers and keep them coming back for more – not just for the right product at the right price, but for the sheer joy of the shopping experience.

For more retail solutions information visit Brother's Retail Business Solutions area.

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