Despite the digital grip on shopping, 2015 saw weekly shopper visits up 40%. It is predicted that 2018 will see this increase to 44%. With technology only becoming more advanced, why is it that people are returning to the bricks-and-mortar stores?
It could be that a trip to a physical store has a different primary objective these days. With most people doing their shopping online, shopping out in the real world has become something of a social activity. To make the most of this shift, shops can lower their stock levels to use the space differently. For example, creating an interactive experience with in-store tech can revamp your store and encourage more visitors to explore your brand, with the aim of orders being placed online later.
Bringing people into your stores
Technology in-store can help not only to encourage people to visit, but also increase brand loyalty. In-store technology can also improve a customer’s experience and brand perception. One study revealed that 46% of those surveyed said that a positive experience due to well-functioning technology increases their brand confidence.
Having up-to-date technology in-store can also make customers view your brand higher than a competitor. Some retailers are recognising this too as one report suggested that 53% of retailers view investments in new automations and appliances in-store as vital to keep up with their competitor activity.
In-store technology available
Initially, brands were quick to embrace the e-commerce trend as a focus over physical stores. But, recent research still indicates that people value brick-and-mortar stores — in fact, 81% of UK customers said that the physical stores were vital to the shopping experience. So, when it comes to improving the high-street and implementing in-store technology, what should retailers be getting involved with?
Technology can also help keep staff informed, which in turn, makes for better communication with the customer. One way to do this is by providing employees with handheld iPads or other smart tablets. This allows staff to find the answer to a query, check a product’s availability and place orders for the customer without having to use a fixed computer. This can improve the customer’s experience and help build a stronger brand-to-customer relationship.
Augmented reality technology is also on the rise. This can help the customer with their purchase decision and help them visualise themselves with the product. Although this can be made available through an app, there are also ways to introduce it in-store. In a fashion store for example, a smart mirror can allow customers to dress themselves in different party dresses without actually trying them on. Similarly, in a furniture store, visitors can upload a photo of their home and try out pieces of furniture to see if it would suit their rooms.
Studies show customers also like to use kiosks that are powered by artificial intelligence. However, not all retailers are getting on board — 66% of those surveyed in one study said that they were yet to encounter artificial intelligence in-store. Do retailers realise the huge potential of this type of technology? In fact, 60% of consumers are attracted to the idea of using them to find products that they weren’t aware of before. As an example, in QUIZ’s digital stores, an in-store kiosk enables visitors to browse the full collection (even if some products aren’t available in-store) and order them to their homes or local store.
Downfalls of technology
A study by RetailWeek showed, however, that two thirds of customers had experienced problems with in-store technology failing. Unfortunately, this then affects sales — one third of customers said that they were unable to complete their transactions because of the technology difficulties. This highlights that of course, technology can fail at times, and doesn’t always work how we would like it too. This can be frustrating and add time onto a customer’s visit which may result in a negative experience.
As with any other negative experience, a negative experience with in-store technology can be detrimental to a customer’s view of a brand. Retailers must keep software and technologies updates and well-maintained to avoid issues like this.
Overly complex technology can also have a similar negative effect. This could make people feel excluded too — in-store tech should be simple to use, and visitors should be accompanied when using it if it’s more complex.
In-store technology can be a huge benefit if used wisely. Although customers are happy to shop online, they also enjoy shopping as a leisure activity and appreciate an interactive experience when doing so.