There’s no doubt that the retail industry has undergone major changes in lieu of the latest technology advancements, highlighting that brick and mortars are staying alive and innovating to do so. The most successful retailers that are surviving this turbulent transition are those that are embracing cutting-edge technology to transform the in-store experience, especially leveraging the capabilities of social commerce platforms. These four innovative trends are making a big impact:
Augmented Reality is here to stay. At the same time the largest social platforms such as Facebook, WeChat, Snap, etc. are continuing to invest in this space. This creates the perfect recipe for the adoption of Augmented Commerce inside the retail environment. Allowing users to utilize their mobile handset to interact with products in brick and mortar stores is becoming easier and more natural. Essentially the mobile device acts as a concierge through the entire shopping journey, allowing shoppers to point their phones at items they want and access personalized pricing and offers based on loyalty status, time of day, seasonal specials, inventory, etc. In addition, it can ensure the actual purchase is also completed using the mobile device, thereby eliminating the need to go through a checkout aisle—removing a major in-store shopping pain point entirely.
Also, consider the prospect of enhanced fitting rooms, where shoppers have the opportunity to overlay virtual images onto their reflection in a mirror, mixing in-store apparel with online items that are also being offered, and then sharing them with their social networks to get instant peer approvals.
Retailers and brands are increasingly exploring social commerce platforms as a means to convert their physical stores into demonstration studios for a larger online audience.
Already prevalent in China especially on the WeChat social commerce platform, it combines the ability to broadcast via your mobile device, and receive live feedback from followers, often converting the followers into shoppers of the in-store products. Extensions of these include directly purchasing the products being featured through the video and chat interfaces, or asking for a broadcaster to make the purchase on the shopper’s behalf. US retailers and brands have started experimenting with similar functions to open up a new form of engagement and create additional revenue streams.
Mobile Assisted Checkout and Payments
This covers a broad spectrum of mobile commerce transactions, ranging from traditional online buying using a mobile phone, to in-store payments with a mobile device to person-to-person payments. By leveraging these transaction methods, retailers are alleviating simple in-store processes while expanding their payment offerings for shoppers.
The ubiquity of online BUY buttons on social platforms such as Pinterest and Google, has grown in step with actual omnichannel checkout implementations from retailers like Starbuck’s, Kohl’s and Walmart. The convergence of these two trends is imminent, with certain markets already leapfrogging to the mobile social channel as the default payment vehicle.
With mobile assisted checkout, retailers are also offering more capabilities where users can bundle online and in-store offers, payment types, experiences, marketplaces, etc. and pay for both during one checkout.
With real estate and operating costs rising for brick and mortar locations, retailers are going big, by going small. So, when downsizing their stores, they’re simultaneously increasing the available inventory for purchase through virtual digital channels - also known as virtual aisles. By leveraging social platforms for implementing virtual aisles and marketplaces, not only are retailers able to expand their selection of actual products in-store by allowing consumers to use their mobile devices to see additional accessories and related items, but they can also offer an entire online marketplace of complementary third party products within the same store location. This means retailers can optimize store space for the most frequently purchased products, while relying on warehouses and partners to supply the rest.
So what is the consumer experience? They point their mobile device at items of interest in actual store aisles, and they can easily view related products, offers and services that are offered through the virtual aisle service on the mobile device.
By leveraging the right features and capabilities, retailers are finally innovating to the needs of the consumers. By resolving consistent pain points with the latest cutting-edge technology, brick and mortar stores can breathe new life into their consumers shopping habits. At the end of the day, consumers want quick, reliable and engaging shopping trips and by utilizing social commerce, physical retailers can increase their in-store foot traffic.
Amitaabh Malhotra is the chief marketing officer of Omnyway, an integrated platform for payments, loyalty rewards and offers that encourage consumers to use their mobile phone for all aspects of the buying journey.