The world of retail has leaned into technology and it has subsequently transformed the entire shopping experience.
Although we are seeing more sales and actions migrate to digital, more than 80% of retail sales are still derived offline. While the store isn’t going away, the role of the store is changing rapidly. The line between store and digital is blurred and customers are loving it.
Recent studies show more than half of all U.S. consumers would rather shop in-store than by any other method making physical store the preferred shopping destination. By 2023, IDC analysts predicted that 60% of retailers will look to differentiate their business by delivering trusted and memorable engagements that recreate pre-pandemic, physical experiencesto counter digital fatigue.
How will the intertwining of digital and physical experiences move forward? Here are five ways.
The Surge of App Utilization
Retailers of all sizes have adopted mobile applications into their offerings for customers, bringing full-on storefronts and point-of-sale to shoppers’ fingertips. These interactive platforms for reliable customer service and even loyalty programs have proven to be a strong engagement tool – which is only continuing to grow in adoption as younger generations amass more buying power.
In addition to serving as a channel for in-store contact and sales, apps provide a crucial point of connection. Using apps, retailers can reach more customers and visitors whenever and wherever they want by putting their brand in their hands.
Apps can take the place of salespeople for many functions like inventory checks, price confirmations, offers, wayfinding and check out — meaning faster, targeted transactions. However, salespeople aren’t left out in the advantages. They are also bolstered in their ability to help shoppers by having associate apps that provide inventory info, product comparisons and delivery timelines instantly.
Having applications not only empower the shopper and sales personnel alike but acts as a strong tool to streamline the customer journey from any location while enhancing the shopping and sales experience.
The New Social Shopping Experience
According to Square’s “Future of Retail” report, 34% of millennial and Gen Z consumers report interest in livestream shopping. Similarly, a 2020 study by McKinsey revealed two-thirds of Chinese consumers had bought products via livestream in the past year. With this in mind, these trends can be seen as a precursor for expected growth of livestreaming in the U.S., too.
Livestream and social buying offer many unique virtual experiences ranging from seeing a store unload a shipment live to asking friends how something looks via group chat. Through social media and live chat services, lone shoppers can invite their friends along. Retailers can invite customers to product introductions, inventory replenishment, and significant merchandise deliveries that all encourage purchases and in-store visits.
For example, a plant shop livestreamed “Delivery Day,” showcasing exotic plants as they are unloaded and brought into the store live on Instagram Stories. This virtual event provided viewers with interesting information about a plant’s origin and requirements for upkeep, while highlighting their inventory. Livestreaming can leveraged to deliver information, curated experiences and a level of intimacy that connects viewers to a brand.
That’s why IDC analysts predicted that by 2023, 40% of retailers will have integrated livestreaming capabilities to their commerce platforms, increasing e-commerce conversion rates by at least 10%.
The AR Revolution
With the use of augmented reality (AR), consumers can now try on clothes, test out furniture, and experience just about any good or service with an increasing number of brands.
To assist customers in visualizing how the things they sell will fit into their lives, an estimated one-third of brands aim to invest in augmented reality. By doing so, you need less inventory to stock your shelves, require less room for large things, and make it simpler and more practical for customers to "try before they buy."
In store, dressing rooms can be outfitted with an interactive touchscreen in place of a standard mirror, allowing customers to find products, get outfit recommendations and even check out. If customers can’t find exactly what they want in terms of color, style or size in-store, they can request delivery, a reversal of BOPIS (buy online, pickup in store).
The Improved Checkout Experience
Checkout is often a pain point for in-person shopping and traditional self-checkout like kiosks partially addresses that. "Roaming" checkout takes it a step further by allowing staff to accept payments from customers/guests wherever in the store.
By dispersing lines around the store's footprint and permitting additional points of sale, this technique lessens the congestion of customers waiting in line at the register. Additionally, shoppers have the option of perusing the aisle of products while waiting to make a purchase, which can increase basket size.
Offering multiple ways for customers’ to checkout increases efficiency and makes the flow of people coming in and out the store move faster. Your customer’s will not only appreciate it, but it gives the staff some relief on busier days.
The Rise of QR Codes
The use of QR codes is growing rapidly because they are inexpensive, enable contactless transactions and power deeper customer insights through data mining. Moreover, consumer adoption has skyrocketed over the past two years due to the surge of menu enablement for contactless ordering. In fact, recent studies showed the use of QR codes increased from 35% in September 2020 to 83% in April 2021 alone.
The opportunity to use employees for more intimate connection and contact while allowing the QR code handle the simpler, more fundamental queries is another untapped advantage of QR codes. Staff members are spared of the monotonous task of repeatedly responding to the same concerns feeling more involved in the sales process. As a result, staff retention and satisfaction rise, which is beneficial in the current marketplace.
Additionally, data from QR codes can be collected for business intelligence purposes. Planning store utilization and maximizing profitability per square inch can be accomplished with the aid of information such as what is being scanned, how long customers spent in stores, what they purchased, and what actions they took.
The common denominator with all five of these “phygital” initiatives is improving the customer and associate experience, even as the role and size of the brick & mortar store continues to evolve. No matter your store’s footprint, there are strategic ways to better your brand with the power of in-store digital experiences.