Stock or screens? The new high street experience

Visits to physical stores dropped in the wake of online shopping and e-commerce, and the high street has been viewed as a struggling sector for some years now. But according to recent figures, visits to physical stores were up 40% in 2015, and this is set to increase to 44% in 2018. What’s bringing the shoppers back?

Likely, it’s down to the social element associated with shopping – people might not be buying as much offline as online, but it’s a great way to meet up with friends and look at physical items to order later.

Alongside dresses retailer QUIZ, we explore the tech-upgrade witnesses in high street shops, and how this has increased footfall in recent years.

An updated experience

By now, most stores and brands have an online presence. 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?

Kiosks for information and ordering are popular in-store technology with customers. 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.

Staff can also benefit from in-store technology as a means to assist customers further. 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 also making its way into in-store technology and features. 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.

Brand loyalty

A smart use of in-store technology can help cement customer loyalty. 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.

A store or brand’s image can also be enhanced by in-store technology. One study revealed that 46% of those surveyed said that a positive experience due to well-functioning technology increases their brand confidence.

An imperfect addition

Technology, of course, doesn’t always work the way we want it to. This can be frustrating and add time onto a customer’s visit which may result in a negative experience.

Two-thirds of customers have had a poor experience with technology crashing in-store, RetailWeek reported. Unfortunately, this then affects sales — one third of customers said that they were unable to complete their transactions because of the technology difficulties.

Such poor experiences with ill-maintained technology can negatively reflect on a brand. Retailers must keep software and technologies updates and well-maintained to avoid issues like this. Similarly, if technology is difficult to use, this can deter customers from getting involved with it. 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 can certainly be an asset when used correctly. Although customers are happy to shop online, they also enjoy shopping as a leisure activity and appreciate an interactive experience when doing so.

Sources

https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/retail-consumer/consumer-insights-survey.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2017/06/20/the-future-of-retail-how-well-be-shopping-in-10-years/#21188bbe58a6

https://www.itproportal.com/features/consumers-love-in-store-technology-so-its-time-for-retailers-to-respond/

https://internetretailing.net/themes/themes/quiz-brings-digital-into-westfield-stratford-store-15243

https://www.fool.com/investing/2018/07/06/can-in-store-technology-slow-the-retail-apocalypse.aspx

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