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The Store of the Future is A Hybrid

Retail is swiftly changing into a seamless combination of digital and in-person interactions. How can you make sure your business doesn't stay behind the curve?

Chris Morrison
August 18 2017

As much doom-and-gloom as there is around physical retail, stores still account for more than 90% of sales. And while it’s true that brick-and-mortar stores attract less people than in previous years, customers who visit retail stores are spending more and report a record breaking level of satisfaction.

A better term for what’s happening in retail would be “reinvention.” Shoppers say that physical stores are still important for brands, and prefer to receive service that can tap into their online activity for better in-store experiences. But only the brands that can capture the digital zeitgeist will survive. Retailers must blur the line between physical and online and augment physical stores with online experiences. But what kinds of experiences are customers craving?

Weaving Convenience into the Store Experience

Department chain JCPenney experienced an 11% increase in customer satisfaction by offering a buy online-pick up in-store service, and redesigned their app to capture the convenience of e-commerce. “The new design allows customers to more easily navigate the site and checkout faster, track their orders and access their JCPenney account from any device,” said JCPenney’s Kate Coultas.

The number one reason consumers flock to online stores is convenience: they can compare prices, browse items, and have products delivered with a single click. Brick-and-mortar retailers can’t compete with this experience, but they can take advantage of it by utilizing technology.

A Social-ready Store Experience

Starbucks mastered implementing social media marketing at their brick and mortar locations. According to pop culture theory, the brand instructs employees to purposefully misspell their customer’s names, so visitors will post about Starbucks and tag the brand.

Although such a conspiracy of baristas is unlikely, it does illustrate that “Instagrammable experiences” lift a brand’s retention and engagement. Users on Instagram are 75% more likely to take action — such as visiting a website — after seeing a photo related to the company. Even if the theory simply amounts to a conspiracy, Starbucks realized that purchase decisions are influenced by content we like and share on Facebook and Twitter.

Exclusive Promos on Different Platforms that Can Be Used In-store

Calvin Klein boosted outdoor, in-store, and mobile advertising all at once by asking WeChat users to post photos with friends via a QR code displayed on screens throughout Chinese cities. Lucky customers won prizes that were redeemable by going to the brand’s nearest branch. “We’ve had great success with mobile scanning around the world. The first step is to understand where the end of the journey should be – at a specific location or an e–commerce site, so we can plan the mobile experience accordingly,” said Kinetic’s Benjamin Bourinat.

Today’s consumers are price sensitive and flock to online shopping due to the sales and discounts. While the online pricing can be difficult to match, retailers can use the power of exclusive rewards to encourage store visits.

An Amazon Change to Retail

Of course, all eyes today are on one company: Amazon, which has already opened seven brick-and-mortar bookstores, in addition to two “drive-up” grocery outlets in Seattle. The new stores parse through their massive amount of consumer data. Books, for instance, are sorted into categories such as “Books that Kindle readers finish under 3 days.” Visitors to the grocery outlets can arrange a pickup service for products bought online through AmazonFresh.

But Amazon isn’t the only company worth watching. Retailers have reason to keep their spirits up. Companies that embraced the trend, like beauty retailer Ulta, experienced new store sales growth by 14.3%, and Nordstrom, reported breaking record sales. While the change to retailing is likely to last for several years — or even longer — there is light in the tunnel, and not just at the end.

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Chris Morrison

Chris Morrison is a reformed game developer and a freelance writer specializing in game design, app marketing, marketing technology and other areas. He was previously a writer for VentureBeat before trying his hand at game design.

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