Could embracing new technologies be the way to save the businesses from the retail apocalypse
In the face of growing competition and increasing customer demand, every retailer needs a well-stocked online product page and a smooth checkout process to remain competitive. However, in an age where retail is about so much more than just buying things and transactions alone are only part of the shopping experience, being able to tick these boxes may no longer be enough. Indeed, the recent demise of a number of high street names –including Toys R Us, Claire’s Accessories, and Maplin – is testament to this.
With this in mind, retailers should give serious consideration to ways they can adapt to current market conditions and, for the foreseeable future at least, why they should focus more on the need to surprise and delight their customers both in-store and online.
What an experience
Imagine a live fashion show taking place in a clothing store. While this might have little to do with direct transactional engagement, shoppers will certainly be interested. Surprised and delighted at what’s taking place in front of them, they’re bound to stay and watch. It’s for this reason more retailers have begun introducing experiential space into areas traditionally used for transactional footfall.
For example, dry cleaning pick-up and drop-off services have recently appeared in Morrisons supermarkets in the UK while Target is opening barber shops within its US stores. If I could have a shave and haircut while my family were shopping, I know I’d be surprised and delighted.
Online, augmented reality (AR) has the potential to surprise and delight shoppers. Amazon, perhaps unsurprisingly, is pioneering the use of the emerging technology with the release of an app which, by allowing shoppers to place an image of one of 15,000 products on themselves or their home, encourages a virtual ‘try before you buy’ approach to online shopping.
Similar technologies are also currently being trialled by IKEA and online home goods retailer Wayfair, suggesting that, as it matures and is more widely adopted, AR will continue to surprise and delight shoppers for some time to come.
It suits you
With so many options available, it’s important to remember that different people have different shopping habits, and what inspires one person’s purchases may not work for another. While I might use an iPad, for example, and am happy to view as much content as possible, my friend might use an Android device and rely on nothing more than user reviews and recommendations for inspiration.
Despite this, however, the websites of most retailers still tend to present their customers with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ offering. Unfortunately, with so many variables and with customers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their online shopping habits, this approach isn’t going to work for much longer.
A more personal,and personalised experience is required in which, by learning more about a customer - the touchpoints they use, what informs and inspires their purchasing decisions – a retailer can serve a page tailored to that customer’s particular needs and preferences the next time they visit.
There’s no reason this personalised approach should be limited just to online retail, though. By using data and insight gathered from a customer’s mobile device, for example, forward-thinking retailers can link an online experience to an in-store visit and, by better understanding the customer’s preferences, inform and improve their overall shopping experience.
And who knows, with video doorbell company Ring, recently acquired by Amazon for $1bn, reportedly developing facial recognition technology, the future of shopping could be about to become extremely personal.
The important thing is, that in an environment in which experience is everything, retailers must do everything in their power to surprise and delight shoppers - both online and in-store - if they are to attract and retain customers, and remain competitive.
This article comes courtesy of Flixmedia, specialists in conversion rate optimisation.