In 2019, we’ll continue see emerging retail trends leveraging technology and digital media. This is now becoming the new set of expectations as shoppers demand a more robust and dynamic brick and mortar experience. At the forefront, there’s a real drive to empower customers, bolster brand loyalty and increase interactions. Behind the scenes we’ll also see a push to empower, educate and engage employees who should really be seen as the ultimate brand ambassadors.
NAVIGATION AND “WAY-FINDING”
Everyone has had the experience of walking into a big retail store and exiting two hours later with several items that weren’t even on your shopping list (and with some remaining unchecked items because you couldn’t ever find them). To counter this issue retailers are launching new navigational “way-finding” apps and digital platforms. Target has implemented a new app which maps the store’s footprint and pinpoints precisely where promotions are situated. Seeking scented candles from Chip and Joanna’s new line? Simply open the app and tap the promo icon. The app will highlight the specific aisle where the deal is located which in turn, facilitates an easier shopping experience for their customers. JoAnn Fabrics has implemented touchscreens that not only display inspiration boards for sewing and scrapbooking, but show step-by-step instructions for how to make projects and where the necessary supplies can be found. By implementing digital tools that maximize time in-store, brands are empowering customers, increasing loyalty and upping interaction – ultimately leading to higher revenue.
INTERACTIVE SCREENS AND TABLETS
Another retail component, which plays into our natural draw to tactile experiences, is the continued evolution of tablets and interactive screens in-store. Yes, we’ve seen them in the past, but we’ll see touchscreens in increasing numbers this year. Utilized in a multitude of ways, tablets house what we call “Endless Aisle,” which extends a retailer’s in-store offering to encompass their online inventory. Think: mores sizes, colors and customization opportunities. From an employee perspective, tablets can be used for training, research, inventory checks and mobile checkout. There’s an element of interactivity for both employees and customers that creates connection and allows for a deeper level of brand awareness and affinity – and now it’s an expectation that technology will be used for speed and productivity in-store.
We’ve seen many digitally native companies translate their eComm knowledge into their brick-and-mortar experience. The information exchange works both ways. Moving forward, we’ll see more and more online personalization insights translate into retail stores. Innovative and technology savvy brands like Fabletics use insights from retail stores to influence data about products and sizing online. We now have intel and data at our fingertips; the brands that are able to leverage that data in the right ways will win in 2019 and beyond. Customer profiles make personalization all the more seamless. Today digital screens can even detect precisely who’s standing in front of them and the smart brands will begin to serve up relevant products to people walking into stores based on their past purchases. Upon crossing the threshold, customers could receive a relevant coupon code for a percent off code or see items that they were browsing online, translating eComm insights into the retail space. We’ll see more and more tech developed that will connect with past purchases in-store.
Creating social media-worthy moments in-store isn’t a new concept, and it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, we’re going to see more stores create a sense of belonging for their customers through connecting, sharing and engaging. REI launched this concept years ago about being a part of a larger community. Lululemon has also done a great job engaging customers with Instagrammable moments like in-store yoga classes, and they are now expanding into loyalty and member programs. In the coming year we’ll see more brick-and-mortar retailers continue to rally their biggest brand advocates with insider perks, in-store activations and shareable moments, making loyalists feel like influencers within a broader brand community.
It’s important that the in-house team feel engaged and informed, first and foremost. In retail, employees are the first consumer touchpoint. They’re quite literally the face of a brand when customers walk into a store. As such, there’s a few new methods for engaging and educating employees. First, brands can leverage their existing in-store media assets for additional employee training after-hours. TJX in Canada is launching back-of-house training using digital screens for training demos and morning kick-off videos with managers. Beyond training, there’s a second dynamic area for employee engagement: influencing in-store music. Social mix applications allow employees to vote-up songs on their mobile device when they see them in the playlist queue, giving staff the opportunity to engage with their store’s playlist – providing a sense of ownership and enriching their investment in the brand as well.
We will continue to see the brick and mortar experience evolve throughout the coming year. Undoubtedly, the brands poised to experience the most success are those willing to adapt and evolve to remain current while staying true to their brand personality and customer base. Customer tastes are continually changing, and keeping an open mind is key to keeping an open door.