The Future of Retail Hinges on Better Customer Connections

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 By Niki Schillero

It’s no secret the retail environment has changed dramatically over the last decade, with the primary changes relating to where and how consumers shop. For many retailers, changing consumer preferences mean fewer physical locations and more plentiful, robust online shopping options.

With so much recent change in the industry, the question is: what does the future of retail look like?

One thing is for certain – continued disruption to the traditional retail model will only increase through the continued adoption of technology in brick-and-mortar locations.

To successfully attract and retain customers, retailers will need to leverage both online initiatives and in-store platforms to help facilitate better connections through:

  • In-Store Personalization
  • Experiential Marketing
  • Automation and Interactivity 

WHY ARE THESE INITIATIVES IMPORTANT TO THE FUTURE OF RETAIL?

Leveraging in-store personalization, experiential marketing, automation and interactivity gives retailers the opportunity to win new customers, as well as retain current ones.

Consumers want to be treated like unique individuals and need targeted care within that experience. Modern retailers must intently focus on and cater to who their shoppers are and what they want. These three initiatives will help you achieve just that:

1. IN-STORE PERSONALIZATION
The convenience of online shopping has dramatically impacted the brick-and-mortar space, most notably contributing to the decline of in-store foot traffic. In order to survive in this digital age, retailers must be able to meet rising customer expectations by offering a personalized in-store experience.

While consumers don’t always know what it is that they’re looking for before entering a store, they know what being treated as a valued customer looks like. When a customer feels valued, they’re not only more likely to make purchases, but to add additional items to their purchase than they originally intended.

Smart technology is allowing brands to leverage customer service and data to continually tailor an individual’s shopping experience.

Whether small or large, retailers are finding ways to bridge the digital and physical into one omnichannel approach. Check out how some industry leaders are creating or refining personalization strategies, increasing connections and treat every customer as if they're the only one:

2. EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING
Digital entertainment plays a bigger role in our lives today than ever before. Whether it be binging shows on Netflix, watching something on YouTube or continuously scrolling your Instagram feed – there’s constant competition for our time, attention and discretionary dollars.

With this in mind, retailers must do more to stand out. Stores of the Future have to be engaging, exciting and entertaining if they want consumers to visit and stay.

Brick-and-mortar retailers have been experimenting with this concept and how to apply the latest technology to create a branded experience – something that goes beyond the transactional by building a solid, memorable relationship with the customer.

Let’s look at a few retailers who are taking a sophisticated approach by bringing both the digital and physical together in order to create better experiences for and connections with their customers:

  • Farfetch, an e-commerce portal for luxury boutiques, is creating a retail experience of the future using an augmented retail solution. The online and offline data that's collected is used to enhance a consumer's retail experience. In one of Farfetch’s stores in London, there are connected clothing racks, touchscreen-enhanced mirrors, and sign-in screen stations that search a consumer’s purchase history and wish list to provide valuable insight for the sales associate.
  • TOMS, a company that designs and markets shoes – as well as eyewear, coffee, apparel, and handbags – is creating an immersive experience through virtual reality (VR). Back in 2015, TOMS’ placed VR headsets into 100 of their stores that enabled their customers to virtually transport to Peru to see the impact of their One for One® giving campaign on local people. As you’re virtually walking through the village of locals smiling and waving at you, you feel welcomed by the friendly atmosphere. This VR retail experience not only improves awareness of the company’s social corporate obligation and promotions of their giving campaign, it also gives their customers a memorable and immersive experience they’ll never forget.
  • Kohl’s recently launched an initiative to process Amazon returns. Amazon ships out a ton of products for consumers, and with that comes a hefty amount of returns. Kohl’s saw this as an opportunity to pair up with Amazon as a positive means to bring in more foot traffic to their stores as a way to remain relevant.

The opportunity to utilize online and offline as complementary channels will open possibilities that are unimaginable with the more traditional, siloed approach. By enabling customer interaction with products and brand ambassador expertise, you’ll be more likely to gain that customer's loyalty.

3. AUTOMATION AND INTERACTIVITY
The smartphone has revolutionized our world – from communication and entertainment, to data collection and shopping, this device now is at the heart of everything.

Since consumers can now shop anywhere and everywhere, they go with their phones, retailers must adopt technology that can seamlessly anticipate, sense and interact with their customers everywhere they go, whether inside or outside of the store.

Let’s take long checkout lines for example – this is a customer pinpoint that can dramatically impact foot traffic and sales within brick-and-mortar retailers.

In order to solve for this, Amazon began testing technology that would allow shoppers to enter a physical location, choose items from the stocked shelves and then auto-checkout via an app without the need of a cashier or check-out lines.

After years of piloting this concept in-house, the e-commerce giant opened its first Amazon Go location to the public in January of 2018.

As you can see in the video by Amazon, computer vision, cameras, sensors, and learning algorithms all contribute to an automated, interactive, convenient and seamless customer experience.

THE FUTURE OF RETAIL IS HERE, WHAT’S NEXT?

The future of retail comes down to leveraging technology to create connectivity and convenience. It’s about using online initiatives and in-store platforms to help facilitate better connections with consumers. If executed correctly, this blended reality through omnichannel strategies will create a stronger customer experience unique to your brand.

So, where do you start?

It’s important for every retailer to have a customer engagement strategy. Any in-store investment in technology or innovation needs to be aligned with this in order to effectively measure the impact and ROI through customer satisfaction and profitability.

No retailer is the same, and each will have a different need between product interaction, education and immersive experience. Since most retail facilities aren’t currently equipped to run the technology needed to support some of the concepts discussed here, additional planning and support will be needed. And, that’s where we come in!

With our lighting, electrical, controls, and IoT installation experience – Illumetek can help improve your brand’s customer experience by transforming retail facilities into Stores of the Future. Feel free to contact us at hello@illumetek.com, or find some of our team members on LinkedIn.

Filed under: Digital, Retail, Trends

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Illumetek is a National Program Management company facilitating installs, updates, compliance and rebates for Lighting, Electrical, and associated Controls. If you have additional questions regarding LED lighting technology or design, please feel free to contact us anytime.


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