In today’s brave new world of connected commerce, there’s more pressure than ever on brands to offer consistent, memorable experiences across all channels. Customers expect a consistent brand experience, whether it’s online, on social media, or in-store.
We understand there are challenges facing brick-and-mortar stores – particularly at this time. Much of this is attributed to the success and growth of digital retailers that offer variety, low prices, and convenience.
However, there are elements of the digital store that can be applied to the physical retail environment, and deliver the kind of streamlined, personalized, and memorable experience consumers now expect.
So, let’s discuss some of the aspects we consider as digital, and consider how they can shape the store of the future.
When we think about ecommerce, the PDP (product detail page) is central in delivering detailed product information. Mobile devices, clienteling apps and interactive screens in-store could enable this in the physical store environment.
Product Information – Mobile devices could be used to scan product QR codes, launching AR/VR apps, and try-on tools. These could also help with showcasing review or demo videos, and the kind of detailed product information found online but not traditionally in-store.
Ratings + Reviews – Something we’re now accustomed to seeing on PDPs to build trust and authenticity is ratings and reviews. Amazon uses digital price tags in its Amazon Go stores, showing the average star rating for each product, similar to what we’re used to seeing when shopping online. Retailers could follow up with customers using a quick one-tap review on their mobile device as they leave the store – if Uber can do it, why can’t stores?
Inventory – Whilst we’re used to easily locating items online and viewing real-time stock availability, it isn’t always so easy in-store, scanning through racks of jeans to find your size. Interactive store maps and product locators with real-time inventory information can make the store experience more convenient.
Search, navigation + merchandising
One reason why the online shopping experience is so convenient is the ability for shoppers to easily find what they want and browse quickly through vast categories of products. Also, recommended products and bundles are useful online tools retailers use to increase AOV, whilst helping customers complete the look, or cook a recipe, for example.
You might also see curated product ranges, or websites that use filters to allow customers to find, for instance, organic, recycled or vegan products. In a shopping mall or department store, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to find a designated area for these types of products – a shelf where you’d find both a vegan handbag and a cruelty-free face cream, for example.
Technology could be available to help customers locate desired products or, even better, a clienteling app could provide tailored recommended products or item bundles, with special offers, for customers to seamlessly purchase, with a store associate picking and packing the items so they’re ready to go.
Personalization is generally considered an online execution. However, we must consider how we bring this to the offline world. Consider the personalization we’ve grown accustomed to online – recommended products, loyalty offers and coupons, birthday offers – these can be replicated physically. Think of it as the physical cookie, enabling personalized recommendations, personal coupons, seamless payments, flexible fulfilment, and cross-channel purchasing and loyalty benefits.
For example, a shopper might browse products while sat on a train and save an outfit as a favorite or add to their cart. As the shopper then passes by a store, the brand app can send them a notification that the store has the outfit in stock, in their size, and a map of the store to find the item quickly and easily. The app can also use a customer’s purchase history or preferences to recommend additional products and maximize the value of the sale, whilst providing a more personalized experience.
Data + Analytics
Brands with an online presence have a keen focus on data and analytics to better understand digital user behaviour, curate and optimize moments and interactions online, and design experiences to promote certain behaviors, all driven by data and intent. So, how do we use data to shape offline behaviors? How do we orchestrate data to optimize the customer journey, making sure we’re applying that data in a timely, relevant way, to make real changes that are useful to the in-store customer?
In-store interactions with customers offer a wealth of data to a brand: in-store sales, product engagement, merchandising, pricing, and customer feedback. Combine these with online browsing and behavioral data and brands can refine marketing, merchandising, experience design and loyalty efforts.
What technology is needed?
Brands and retailers that are leading the way with digital innovations are leveraging microservices architecture – ‘headless commerce’ – to do so. Headless commerce allows fast and limitless front-end innovation, leveraging smart APIs to connect with back-end management platforms such as customer data, payments, inventory, and fulfilment systems.
Whilst retailers generally understand headless as an online execution, the same architecture enables in-store innovation, too. This lean microservices architecture, via APIs, allows brands to deliver innovative experiences for any customer-facing points of sale – in-store devices, mobile, smart speakers, TVs – all at the same time. This is done through a lean microservices architecture, via APIs.
How can Enactor help?
Enactor’s microservices architecture and cloud-enabled omnichannel technology, including PoS and MPoS retail store software, self-checkout and endless aisle capabilities enable elevated, personalized front-end retail experiences. Back-end integrations are streamlined by Enactor’s lightweight, API-driven commerce engine, pre-integrated with its fully-managed payments service. These solutions enhance the digital experience through loyalty and promotions, commerce APIs and order management, whilst enabling a number of omnichannel opportunities such as curbside collection and cross-channel basket management. Find out more at: enactor.co
How can Merkle help?
Having recently announced the launch of our Innovation Lab and Creative Studio, at Merkle we’re excited to be delivering a range of new retail experiences, prototypes and solutions. As we look forward to a time where physical retail opens up again, it’s time for brands to understand how technology can elevate physical elements, and embrace in-store digital shopping experiences.
With a deep understanding of Enactor solutions and microservices architecture, along with creative, strategy, performance marketing services, our focus on innovation and customer experience helps brands elevate their omnichannel touchpoints and increase revenue.