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In-Store Enhancements – the Future is Now

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With websites and mobile apps making it so easy to buy from the comfort of your home, shoppers are drastically reducing visits to stores. Online sales already account for 8% of all retail sales ($291 billion). It’s predicted that by 2017, those numbers will jump to 10%, or $370 billion. Physical stores are in a position to capture some of those dollars on their websites, but pure-play ecommerce sites are taking those sales away due to lower prices and more unique product selection.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article noting the changing tide of consumer shopping preferences. “Instead of wandering through stores and making impulse purchases, shoppers use their mobile phones and computers to research prices and cherry-pick promotions, sticking to their shopping lists rather than splurging on unneeded items.” From Target to Macys, retailers have seen in-store sales go south.

Some brick-and-mortar stores are getting even, by employing cutting-edge technologies in an effort to attract more people to browse, “experience” the goods, and based on that engaged experience, buy.

In a recent study by Forrester Research on emerging technologies in-store, it was cited that interactive technologies that make in-store shopping easier or cheaper will become more prevalent—things like touch screens that interact with barcodes to give more information on products, or geo-fencing apps that deliver opt-in mobile coupons. In a few years, interactive mirrors and facial scanning will become mainstream.

A place where technology is shining is in the fitting room. Once an afterthought in store design, it can play one of the most important roles in the shopping experience.

In fact shoppers who use fitting rooms, rather than just browse the sales floor, are 70% more likely to make a purchase. So when it’s time to upgrade your in-store technology, it makes sense to put extra attention there. Smart fitting rooms can help to enhance the customer experience and the way they interact with the brand.

Of all companies to come to brick-and-mortar aid, online giant eBay is paving the way with new technology, and one of the retailers they’re partnering with is upscale designer Rebecca Minkoff.  With the recent introduction over the holidays of eBay-designed “smart mirrors” in her San Francisco and New York stores,  customers can bring a blouse, jacket and scarf into a fitting room, and the dark glass lights up with a suggested handbag to match. You can browse the racks or swipe through “looks” on massive touchscreens. If you see something you like, you tap in your phone number, and you’ll get a text when it’s ready to try on.

These high-tech Rebecca Minkoff stores include a feature becoming more common in physical retail, in which the store will “recognize” users of its mobile app, allowing staff to see who’s in the store and what they’ve bought. The staff can use that purchase history and make product recommendations, much like Amazon’s recommendation engine.

Two Nordstrom locations (with more to follow) have also brought eBay’s technology into their dressing rooms.

Nordstrom, widely considered a technology leader among brick-and-mortar retailers, plans to spend $1.2 billion on tech by 2018, including e-commerce, fulfillment centers, and in-store service enhancements, such as these “connected” fitting rooms. With comparable sales last quarter remaining unchanged, the retailer considers it vital to keep pushing to get more out of each shopper’s visit to the stores.

“The way customers shop for clothes has evolved,” says Jamie Nordstrom, the retailer’s head of stores and former leader of its Nordstrom Direct digital business. “By taking all the information that’s available to customers while they’re sitting on the couch at home browsing and adding that to the dressing rooms, you have the best of both worlds.”

In a clear sign that brick-and-mortar isn’t going away, eBay’s entrée into the physical world makes that point. The company’s official corporate mission is to strive toward becoming a venue for all commerce. That includes stores on “Main Street,” where the vast majority of retail still takes place.

TAGS: retail, retail trends, staffing,
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