Updating the high street: in-store tech
Online shopping allowed consumers to browse and buy without having to deal with the noise and bustle of the high street. For many, it was a godsend — except for the high street. Physical retailers saw footfall decrease as the online shopping centres attracted customers with digital-only deals and convenience. But recent data suggests that weekly visits to physical stores had increased by 40% in 2015, and the forecast is for real-life visits to increase again by 44% in 2018. What’s bringing the footfall back?
For many people, shopping has become an easy social activity. People like to browse and try products before buying, a key element missing in online shopping. The trend now is to look in physical shops for what you want, then order later online. There’s an opportunity here for physical retailers to embrace — to enhance the social experience within their stores in order to impress customers and forge a sense of loyalty from an enjoyable experience.
In this article, we explore the use of in-store technology for that very purpose, guided by the expertise of QUIZ clothing, a leading retailer of a range of dresses, from party to maxi dresses.
A range of technology
To begin with, e-commerce was the primary tech-based impact felt by the retail industry. 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?
According to studies on in-store tech, customers enjoy using artificial intelligence-based kiosks in stores. 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.
It’s not just for the customers either, as in-store tech can be an advantage to staff too. 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 is another powerful technology making its way into stores. 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 outfits 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.
Boosting store visits for the experience
Having great in-store technology can help encourage more customers to make the trip into your store. It’s possible that having in-store technology in a physical shop can make a brand more attractive to customers, and potentially a better option over competitors. 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.
Good technology use in-store can also impact your brand’s reputation. One study revealed that 46% of those surveyed said that a positive experience due to well-functioning technology increases their brand confidence.
Keep it up-to-date
Technology, by its very nature, can be fickle. This can be frustrating and add time onto a customer’s visit which may result in a negative experience.
RetailWeek revealed that two-thirds of customers have had in-store technology malfunction on them. Unfortunately, this then affects sales — one third of customers said that they were unable to complete their transactions because of the technology difficulties. Negative experiences like this can deter customers from revisiting the store and can make them leave the store with a negative opinion of the brand. Retailers must keep software and technologies updates and well-maintained to avoid issues like this.
Also, complex technology can be off-putting rather than encouraging. 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 is becoming ever more important. Although customers are happy to shop online, they also enjoy shopping as a leisure activity and appreciate an interactive experience when doing so.