Brick and mortar stores are here to stay for now, but the wave of digital continues to sweep across brands and stores as newer technologies rise, and consumer behavior evolves rapidly in response to it. Businesses need to be a two or three steps ahead of its customers to fully capture not just their attention but ultimately their brand buy-in. Businesses need it now more than ever to adapt to customers’ current (and changing) demands, so let’s take a look at how a few have carried it out.
In the world of luxury fashion, Burberry is the champion for digital. In 2006 Burberry was the first fashion line to make its strategy digital-first, integrating social and digital media into its mix. By 2009, they launched “The Art of the Trench”, their own social media networking site focused on customers and fans of their iconic and beloved trenchcoats. There, users would engage with one another over their enthusiasm for the product and discuss related fashion trends.
By 2012, Burberry seemingly reverted to in-store experiences, but with a twist. The brand opened its largest store yet on Regent Street in London, modeled after their website. Yes, their website Burberry World Online was the inspiration on the store’s interior design and overall user experience, with the store labeled as “The New Burberry World Live Flagship”.
In this store, the brand offers a unique state-of-the-art experience that aims to blur the line between the digital and physical shopping experience. The store is teeming with digital screens and signages that display not just product information but also a live feeds for global events and fashion shows as well as a platform to display budding British musical talent via Burberry Acoustic. The new store held the largest indoor digital screen yet, standing tall at 38 sq m in the main floor area. These screens also project personalized content based on items customers have picked out. RFID technology was utilised and chips were placed in items. Once detected, nearby screens (and even mirrors!) may display how it was worn on the runway or by a model, or more information about the product and how it was made. If a customer needs assistance from a staff member, they are reaily equipped with iPads on hand to provide more of the personalized shopping experience by accessing a database of customers’ purchase history and preferences.
Photo from Market Watch
UK’s longest-standing pharmacy chain, Boots UK, has laid its groundworks for the omnichannel digital transformation strategy. On its website, the company promises that they are committed to ensuring customers are able to purchase products from them at their own convenience.
In the middle of 2016, Boots UK launched SalesAssist, an IBM MobileFirst for iOS app, that equips floor staff with the right information and product recommendations to improve customers’ in-store experience. The app utilises data analytics based on popular purchases, overall purchase history and ongoing promotions to create personalised recommendations for additional products or alternative ones that customers may purchase as well. Detailed information on a product as well as reviews and ingredients are at the tip of staff’s fingertips with SalesAssist. With the app as well, staff are able to assist customers of a product’s availability in-store, and if it’s not they could immediately recommend another branch or coordinate the product’s delivery to the current store. General rollout of this in-store technology spanned to its 2,500 stores and into 3,700 devices hosting the app.
“What we are trying to empower colleagues to do is move away from a traditional retail job into one that is more in front of the customer and is part of the overall experience and service which a customer is increasingly expecting when they come into Boots.” Omnichannel and Development Director Robert Phillips said in a feature by The Drum. So far, this is the first step into developing a full-fledged omnichannel strategy for the company, with the app expecting to evolve as it gains rich, quality customer analytics and with more technologies for execution in the brand’s pipeline.
Photo from Cosmetics Business
Beauty brand Sephora is at the forefront as well of engaging in-store user experience. In 2015 Sephora opened the Beauty TIP Workshop, a store concept that featured various digital and knowledge interaction points. The Beauty Workshop is the central area of the store, where customers can learn beauty tips through group classes and in-store facilitators, access more tutorials through iPads and browse through inspiring works on The Beauty Board, which is an online user-generated gallery where they can even purchase products. Each of the stations has its own device and set of products so that customers can get an immersive teach, inspire and play (TIP) experience.
The front area of the store features The Sephora Beauty Studio for one-on-one makeovers with senior artists. Makeovers can be scheduled in advance via Sephora’s website or mobile app for the customer’s convenience. The area also features Sephora’s Color IQ Technology, developed in partnership with Pantone, that scans skin color and presents product recommendations for beauty products that perfectly match your skin tone.
Similar technologies are also employed in The Skincare Studio and Fragrance sections of the store. In a touchscreen device, customers engage the Skincare IQ technology diagnostics and, analyzing their skin concerns, presents products that are most effective for them. The Fragrance IQ on the other hand is an online and in-store quiz that assists customers narrow down their choices and preferences for scents.
Forward to 2016, Sephora’s stores have employed even more engaging experiences. Robots greet customers at the entrance and provide NFC cards for use as their virtual shopping basket. NFC tags are also on items and provide customers access to more or even exclusive information on larger screens. Digital selfie mirrors are also present for taking photos of themselves with products they’ve tried on in-store. Sephora also introduced Mini-Beautic, a touchscreen vending machine that pushes out product samples in real time.
Sephora has even managed to capture customers digitally even beyond the store. Their Virtual Artist app on iOS uses augmented reality to let customers try on different shades of lipstick via facial recognition features similar to Snapchat’s filters. A similar app was also developed, Pocket Contour, that identifies the shape of a customer’s face and provides a step-by-step tutorial on how to achieve the perfect contour for it.
Photo from 3D Print
The world of furniture has also been endowed with the wonders of digital transformation and retail technology. UK retail giant John Lewis was looking to improve customer experience when it came to its Any Shape, Any Fabric service circa 2014–2015. At the time, customers looking into customized sofas simply needed to approach a display and select cards depicting their desired sofa shape and another card depicting the fabric they want to match it with. This feature was also available online, but John Lewis’ innovation team had an even better idea on how to make things more fun and interactive with customers.
The team led by Jon Varys developed a system that uses RFID technology to “read” 3D-printed miniature sofa models and different kinds of fabric. Each of the 15 sofa models and 20 fabric swatches have RFID tags attached to them; customers needed only to select one of each, place them on a designated tabletop surface which will read their unique tags and presto — the screen in front displays a 3D mockup of the desired sofa, blanketed in the chosen fabric and color. This paves the way for the store to gather all sorts of shopper analytics, say for example what were customers’ most popular choices for sofa model and fabric swatch.
Photo from Sydney Design Awards
Australia’s leading telecommunications and technology company never fails to innovate. In 2014, they opened a new flagship store in the Central Business District of Sydney and through this brick-and-mortar presence, Telstra aimed for the customer journey to become seamlessly digital and physical. With the presence of both human connection and interactive, engaging technology, the Discovery Store offered customers a personalised shopping experience as each interaction is recorded for data analytics, better recommendations and overall improved in-store and brand experience.
Inside the store, customers are given Tap-and-Take cards powered by NFC technology that serves as their digital product brochure and shopping cart. By tapping the cards on selected products and services, information about it is stored and (as each card is unique for everyone) the customer can carry on with their retail experience later on online and retrieve the information, even at the comforts of their own home. Whether they’re still considering other matters or in an inspired moment they purchase right away, with the Tap-and-Take cards customers shop in their own time and at their own pace. No need to memorize details, take photos or grab tons of printed flyers; customers can just get back anytime to the products they were interested with initially, and decide to get back to the store with that information or pursue purchase online
A huge table is found inside the store as well containing multiple screens and an opportunity to play and learn. The Device Lab holds useful information about products that users can access by simply placing a device on its surface. The specifications and features of the handset pops up, and the customer can also play around with the actual device and really see its capabilities firsthand.
If these brands have successfully carried out in-store digital transformations, then there’s hope yet for plenty more to follow the lead. Not only is the goal for innovation and digital transformation to stand out from competition, it is to keep up the pace of a rapidly evolving market; essentially, it is about the survival of the business as customers are what will keep it alive. It is important to note however that much as one might be inspired to take on digitally transforming their brick-and-mortar space and propel it to the future, not all technologies will work for their brand or company. Technology comes at a cost, but also with great rewards, and brands and companies must be critical in their decision on how to digitally transform themselves not just for their success, but for their customers’ renewed appreciation, buy-in and long-term loyalty for them.
Featured image from TimeOut.com