Retail stores need a digital reboot
Technology is so advanced that fitting room mirrors can now help shoppers select and coordinate their wardrobes. Although still rare, this level of augmented reality is no longer a science fiction device but a practical tool. Retailers are pursuing high-tech breakthroughs to keep pace with the growth of online shopping and increasingly demanding consumers.
Two facts underpin the blending of physical spaces and digital technology. First, despite the convenience of online retail, consumers still want to touch, feel and experience products before buying them. Second, digital systems offer cost-effective and simple tools to differentiate in-store experiences.
In retail’s new omnichannel world, the consumer experience demands a seamless transition between physical and virtual environments. Interactive kiosks, smart dressing rooms, virtual trials and mobile apps can be used to enhance the appeal of physical spaces. Digital tools delivering immersive product experiences, fostering interaction or inspiring creativity need to be combined with proven in-store marketing techniques for the new customer journey. In other words, don’t get rid of the mannequins just yet.
A digital frontrunner
At athletic wear giant adidas, executives took a digital-first approach to their physical retail stores. The in-store technology includes radio-frequency identification-enabled mirrors, QR codes, location tracking and visualization via apps.
The Bring it to Me app allows shoppers to search products, check stock, request trials and order merchandise. The tool also enables staff to respond promptly when shoppers ask for other sizes and colors.
Running Labs at the adidas flagship store on London’s Oxford Street let customers test products in virtual landscapes. Run Genie pods attached to shoes can analyze movement during trial runs in the store and display data on a tablet. That helps store associates recommend products that match the customer profile and preferences.
The shopping experience is moving beyond the product. Some customers may insist on a product’s sustainability, while others may be interested in who designed the merchandise. Identifying and fulfilling the unique requirements of customer micro-segments is possible only with scalable solutions that integrate external and internal data sources in real time.
Infosys research and client experience has found that harmonization of physical and digital elements empowers retailers to address multiple problems, including cart abandonment and product returns. Spatial modeling, digital twins and machine learning provide the ability to troubleshoot and test concepts while enhancing product aesthetics, store layouts and operational efficiency.
Those elements were featured in the creation of the Infosys Live Enterprise Suite, which modernizes core retail systems to create a feedback loop between the physical and virtual. The result is a seamless connection of the digital and brick-and-mortar sides of the business.
Empower store assistants
The adidas experience — along with many others — teaches us the balance needed in the new generation of stores. More retailers have deployed voice assistants and video chat for customer self-service. The tone of voice and facial expressions are new data streams that can generate insights and deepen customer engagement.
However, mixed reality, digital displays and interactive catalogs cannot replace the human touch. While digital assistants help customers find and learn about products, retailers need teams of in-store experts to boost impulse buying and make nuanced recommendations.
Millennial shoppers are comfortable switching back-and-forth between online and physical retailers. So store associates must be trained on digital tools to become equally fluent in the old and new ways of shopping. That is essential to retaining their jobs and also keeping the shop doors open as more business moves online.
Join us at NRF 2020, from January 12-14, 2020, in New York City, to understand how we are building user experiences for stores of the future.