What’s next for the in-store experience?

Luring shoppers away from the comfort and convenience of their online shopping basket has been the challenge of the century for bricks and mortar retailers. And now, with Amazon, who already claim half of all retail sales in the US, introducing a new Augmented Reality function to help shoppers visualise products in their home before they buy them, the challenge is just got tougher.

Doubtless, you know of at least one example of a creative if not radical solution implemented by a high street store to create an extraordinary in-store experience worth leaving the house for. Sometimes these experiences, ranging from treasure hunts to immersive theatre, are only very tenuously connected to the products and shopping opportunities offered by the stores that host them, but some are squarely on brand. In its central London store, The House of Vans, a skateboarding and BMX fashion retailer, has installed a cinema, café, live music venue and art gallery, with its piece de resistance in the basement, in the form of a fully functional skateboard/bike park.

However, on brand or not, not every retailer has the resources to add multiple new functions to their store, and even those that do are likely to have to limit this approach to their flagship branch. The question of what’s really, practically going to dictate the future of the in-store experience, for both retailers and shoppers, is one that was at the heart of the National Retail Federation’s NXT meeting in July 2019. It turns out that extraordinary store experiences were only one of the three answers they presented. The other two were data and digital marketing. Furthermore, they are the ones that are going to tell you what is going to make for an extraordinary store experience.

Being a high street retailer can seem like a huge disadvantage when you are competing with online stores, because online stores can be accessed by anyone from anywhere, including from inside a high street store. However, online retailers would kill for the quality of data you can capture with a shopper standing in front of you, where you can hold a conversation with them and be responsive in real-time to the information you take in.

The evolution of websites no match for direct contact with the customer

Websites may have evolved the ability to carry out sophisticated behaviour analysis using heatmaps and other user data, but they cannot directly observe their shoppers and modify their approach to better suit the dynamic of each individual, or successfully judge if now is the right time to ask for information that will improve how you connect with them as a brand. These kinds of interactions are not everyone’s forte, but for those who can master them, they can provide far richer data about a customer’s shopping needs than you can get from analysing the same person’s mouse movements and clicks on a website. If you want to know if the changes you are making to your customer experience online are working you can ask your visitors. A retail associate’s observation of a shopper in a high street store could give you a far more accurate, real-time feedback on the success or failure of the customer experience.

Digital marketing and data are closely linked because what makes digital marketing so powerful compared with traditional marketing is the scope it provides to analyse its impact and the speed with which that can be done. When trying to measure the impact of an advert on TV or in a magazine, the two best measures used to be: how many people saw it and, if possible, how many people called the telephone number given in the ad.

Whatever the form of your digital marketing – email, blog, video, banner, pop-up, it is relatively easy to A/B test different options that with old marketing media you would simply have had to commit. Now you can change words, colours and images in marketing, making sure that you can identify which version of which marketing asset a person saw when they answered a call to action (clicking, completing a form, printing a coupon) and get real data as to which marketing effort had the most impact.

This is critical because for most customers in the high street their experience begins with an exposure to digital marketing. It is also critical that the experience offered in-store is looked at holistically alongside the digital marketing effort so that there is congruence between all the digital marketing touchpoints leading to the high street store and the physical space of that same brand.

KIT – helping brands capture real usable data

One way of achieving that is with KIT, which runs on an iPad or Android tablet, and can be adapted to fit any retail brand. KIT is a tool that works at the intersection of all three of the answers offered by the NRF’s NXT meeting. Using customer profiles, it captures incredibly useful data to help the brand improve its customer experience. By linking to the brand’s website it integrates with other digital marketing efforts and powers digital marketing by providing store associates with various means to message customers directly. Finally, there are numerous ways KIT can be used as part of the shopping experience. It can help to locate particular products, both in the catalogue and the store. It can be used to compare products or help educate customers about products. And it can be used to close a sale when otherwise a customer would have a much longer process to follow and run the risk of not completing the purchase.

It is also worth noting that while the assisted selling features of KIT can rescue a retailer from putting too much thought into the frills and not enough into the nuts and bolts of selling stuff to all its customers, KIT can also help with a particular category of shopper, identified in a paper written in April 2018, titled: Selling the Extraordinary Experiential Retail Stores – who will feel particularly let down if she or he can’t make their purchase with a minimum of fuss. 

That is to say, as important as it is for retail stores to think about the customer experience and how to make it rock, they must also understand that broadly speaking, shoppers come in two forms. The ones who do planned, task focussed shopping and those who are more spontaneous and open to being entertained. As well as helping immerse the spontaneous, entertainment-oriented shoppers in the brand and its products, KIT can be the perfect tool for a store associate who needs to help a task focussed shopper transcend the distraction of the entertainment, to simply execute their task. Thus, instead of leaving frustrated because they were not interested in trying a face mask made from Koala droppings, task focussed customers can be made grateful that your store understood and catered to their individual needs.

To learn more about how KIT can form part of your data-driven, digital marketing integrated, extraordinary customer experience, just contact the KIT team on +44 203 691 2936. They will be very happy to answer any questions and schedule a demonstration. You can also email info@instore.technology with any questions or to request more information, or if you prefer you can also complete the short form on our Contact page.