Hype gets reality: Create exciting experiences and save the sale with digital touchpoints in retail

In my last blogpost, I was taking a closer look into the matter of retail digitization. And many of you were probably quite surprised that I was not as enthusiastic as you might have expected. But that was of course not meant as an expression of skepticism. This was purely about “doing the right things”. Besides setting the foundation (more specifically, do anything to guarantee stock visibility and availability), the focus of any digital in-store feature must be on making it easier for customers to purchase. This is because people have gotten used to personalized, quick and convenient shopping online, and don’t expect anything less from brick-and-mortar retailers.

With today’s article, I want to stoke your fire of enthusiasm again by zooming in on the digital touchpoints that successful retailers are currently introducing in their stores to boost the customer experience and drive conversion.

Defining in-store touchpoints
With the first in-store technology experiments, the main goal was to surprise and entertain shoppers. Today, the main goal is more often than not to drive conversion. However, it is not always easy to define the right touchpoints that will exactly do that. The key questions here are: what are shoppers in your stores missing right now in terms of service, information or inspiration? And what would you like to find out about your customers? The most common in-store touchpoints fall into these categories:

Smart Displays – Shine bright like a diamond
Traditionally, digital signage is the softest, most indirect type of digital customer communication by displaying the latest collection, brand images and incentives or guiding shoppers to another area of the store. However, inspiring content in combination with latest developments (see AI section below) make it possible to trigger (relevant) information that directly relates to what customers are looking for/at instead of seeing the same generic pre-set message.

In-store devices enable the true endless aisle

A more direct way of driving conversion and making sure to “save the sale”, retailers increasingly research and adopt concepts like “In-Store Order”, “Endless Aisle” or “Digital Shelf”. All these approaches have one thing in common: the store gets access to additional pools of stock. By utilizing a ‘collaborative stock’ retailers maximize the range of products on offer while simultaneously cutting storage costs by reducing stock levels. The consumer or sales assistants in the store can order missing items – especially colors and sizes – immediately.

 Smart mirrors can elevate your fitting rooms

High-tech touchscreen mirrors look like regular mirrors at first glance until shoppers tap to transform them into a ‘personal assistant’. Shoppers can select the pieces and sizes they want to try on and a sales associate will bring the items directly to the changing room. Often these mirrors also make outfit suggestions (cross-selling) and shoppers can also place items into virtual shopping carts and directly purchase, of course linking the purchase to the shopper’s account, which allows to make intelligent recommendations based on the customer’s taste in the future, further customizing the experience.

Artificial Intelligence – Meet the style advisor of the future
AI technologies are about to become our favorite shopping buddy. With the use of AI technology, retailers can learn our personal style and preferences and generate cross-selling recommendations accordingly. Examples of such variable content include: time of day, the latest social media trends, local conditions (such as weather) or flash sales of high inventory stock. By providing this contextual and timely information, shoppers feel more informed about the choices available to them, ultimately driving their decision to purchase.

Mobile Checkout – We are never fully dressed without our smartphones
To eliminate queues and offer customers a more seamless shopping experience, retailers are also increasingly digitizing their checkout. A recent example of the ultimate frictionless shopping experience is MediaMarktSaturn’s recent introduction of a checkout-free store. The company recently opened a Saturn Express store, where customers use an app specially developed for Saturn which lets them scan the barcode of the items they want to buy and pay for them by credit card or PayPal. And that’s it – they can then simply walk out of the store with their new purchases.

Conclusion
A lot of retailers are currently redefining their store concepts to guarantee that they get the best return on investment for their square feet and engage better with their customers. Of course, there are major differences between retailers regarding the role of their stores. For some retailers, their physical stores’ foremost role is to build identity and capture customer data for follow-up (online) sales. Other retailers see their stores as a major sales channel, which means that not only footfall, but also conversion is extremely important.

The challenge is to find the right combination of digital touchpoints as there is nothing like a “generic success formula”. The only thing they do have in common is the fact that any digital touchpoint needs to create an added value for the customers, either by taking away barriers or by creating a very special shopping experience – or both.

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About the author: Tom Vieweger

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