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Exclusive Q&A: JLL exec takes a look at hybrid shopping

Technologies that blend digital and physical shopping keep growing in popularity.

Retailers are deploying a wide variety of technologies to combine the best aspects of the online and brick-and-mortar customer experiences.

Chain Store Age had a conversation with Lee Jackson, senior VP, Digital Solution Advisory at JLL, to get the real estate services giant’s insight into the latest developments in hybrid shopping solutions and experiences.

What trends is JLL seeing with hybrid shopping technology?
One of the biggest hybrid shopping trends in the mall space over the past year has been the rapid adoption of product discovery. Simon Properties Group made headlines this year when they launched and deployed “Simon Search” on the web, app, and a connection point to the mall kiosk, with a commitment to deploying the service to all assets. 

Simon’s move received a lot of attention, but JLL saw many other shopping center operators launch and expand product discovery long before Simon entered the space. Product discovery at the mall allows adds significant value to the shopping center’s digital presence through the mall website, adding millions of SKU-level products available from the retailers at the specific center. 

This capability is adding a newfound utility for the customer, who can now explore products, add them to wishlists, share with friends and family, and simply discover products and retailers they may not have otherwise known about. The outcome for shopping centers has been a rapid increase in incremental website traffic, a rich enhancement of the impressions as customers now have additional utility on the mall website other than look at operating hours or the store directory; and that newfound intent from the customer is driving more visits for shopping centers. 

Today, shoppers can visit more than 180 shopping centers in North America that are providing this service such as Oxford Properties (who recently launched ‘StyList,’ a shoppable version of this experience), Mall of America, Centennial REIT, Federal Realty, Quadreal, Simon Properties Group, Primaris REIT, Morguard, The Shops at Bal Harbor, Ivanhoe Cambridge, Plaza Las America, and several other groups.

What trends has JLL seen with in-store sensors?
In the sensor tech space, retailers are utilizing two primary types of technology. First, computer vision technology is being deployed at retailers with existing camera infrastructures, which is helping them quantify customer journey via heat mapping, store visits, display optimization, associate training and development, and theft prevention. 

The best computer vision companies are providing easy-to-navigate dashboards that consolidate key performance indicators in real time for retailers, giving them the ability to better understand how people are behaving within the four walls of the stores. 

What other significant hybrid shopping trends is JLL observing?
Brick-and-mortar retailers are connecting the physical and digital experience for clients through enhanced clienteling tools that bridge both the online and in-store experience for customers. For example, Kiehl’s uses the in-store associate tablets when consulting with potential customers on skin care routines. 

The consult is documented in the associate tablet and through recommendation engines, the store associate is prescribed the best skin care solutions and routines for that individual’s skin type. The items can be added to the customer’s “basket” and sent directly to the POS when they are ready to check out. If they are not ready to purchase, the suggestions can be emailed directly to the customer for consideration later. 

Through retargeting, Kiehl’s is able to follow up on the intent shown by shoppers in store, tracking and converting the transaction at a later time. 

Aldo has deployed a similar process for in-store associates to rapidly check inventory when helping a customer seeking shoes.  Rather than leaving the shop floor to visit the stock room, the associates can request the shoes to brough out by a warehouse staff member, leaving them with time to serve multiple customer or better service customers on the floor. 

Customers are also enabled to self-discover with interactive displays in-store, checking inventory themselves and requesting product to try on which is promptly brought to them directly. Aldo has reduced the average wait time down to about 45 seconds to get shoes on feet once requested.

How will hybrid shopping evolve in 2023?
The concept of ‘endless aisle’ or the term ‘unified commerce” will be commonplace. Customers will be given access in-store to the capability to connect the retailers full inventory across the entire supply chain. If the product isn’t available within the store they are visiting, the ability to purchase it and have it delivered directly to your home right then and there will be an expectation for the customer going forward.

In addition, the connection of the online store to the physical store will be more commonplace through another technology that will become commonplace, ‘Pro-Active chat.’ Online retailers will apply machine learning to monitor sessions of browsers and capture ‘high-intent’ opportunities.

This means if a shopper has shown meaningful indication that they are interested in product or product category, they will be send a prompt via a chatbot that can connect an actual store associate to the browser.

When location services are enabled, that associate can be at the closest store to the customer and offer to chat, call or video chat with browser in real-time, with the goal of closing the purchase online or booking a time for them to visit the store in-person to see the product for themselves. Retailers that are doing this are seeing their conversion rates online increase, as well as capturing intent online and converting it into store visits.


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