The Future Retail Experience: How Brands Can Best Engage Consumers In-Store

Modern retail consumers constantly are inundated with advertising and marketing materials  – from pop-up ads when shopping from their PCs or smartphones, to banners plastered on store windows.  With all of these messages hoping to catch shoppers' attention, how can brands break through the noise to create a unique shopping experience that truly engages potential buyers?

1:1 Retailing
As connected devices play a growing role in the shopping experience, especially for digitally savvy millennial shoppers, the importance of creating a customized omnichannel shopping experience is vital for retailers who want to stay relevant.  An innovative solution for brands looking to create a unique customer journey is 1:1 retailing. This next-generation approach to retail is set to transform the shopping experience by taking the information that customers offer regarding their shopping preferences and seamlessly marrying it with technology-enabled capabilities that can track presence awareness and product interaction to provide a wholly personalized in-store experience. The result is an improved shopping experience, higher conversion and and greater average basket size.
Digital needs to transcend a shopper's journey beyond the online interface and become a part of the physical retail journey at the brick-and-mortar location. 1:1 retailing merges the digital and physical to provide a personalized customer journey in-store by applying fresh, innovative technology to traditional retail elements. Here are four examples of how retailers should update their retail experience with a 1:1 retailing approach.

Leverage product awareness technologies such as RFID to create real-time inventory visibility.  One strategy for updating the shopper experience is to leverage existing operational technologies in new and innovative ways for customers. By leveraging product tracking tools like RFID, which have been used in supply chain management for years, retailers can help improve the customer experience, strengthen operations and improve profitability by providing transparency into what's happening across store departments. This technology can arm sales associates with real-time information to help answer customer questions on the spot. By linking these real-time inventory tools with a mobile device, associates can easily check if a certain purse is out of stock or if a shirt comes in a different color, all without having to leave the customer's side. This provides a higher quality of service and enhances the overall shopping experience while making employees more productive (an added bonus). Instant visibility into available inventory and assortment is service level that customers have become accustomed to online, and the connected consumer will expect the same in-store.

Merge the online and in-store experiences by bringing traditional store fixtures to life.  Interactive mannequins might sound more like the beginning of a sci-fi/horror movie, but by adding some innovative technology to old-school marketing props such as mannequins, banners and displays, retailers can better inform consumers and guide them through their shopping experiences.  Ever wanted to try on a mannequin's look from head-to-toe?  By combining technologies with  product awareness capabilities such as RFID with store props or in-store advertisements, a customer can easily receive the associated product marketing via her
smartphone, view available colors and sizes and even choose if she wants to add them to her fitting room or save them for later with the push of a button. In addition to providing a more enjoyable and engaging experience for the consumer, retailers have more opportunities to up-sell shoppers by pairing accessories with apparel or recommending other items based on preferences. 

Transform the fitting room into a luxury runway experience.  While every shopper dreams of her own celebrity-inspired personal shopping experience, the reality is often much different. But what if the dressing room could be the everyday shopper's personal stylist? Retail technology can transform the fitting room into an interactive and engaging part of the customer journey.  By digitally connecting fitting rooms shoppers can add items to their dressing rooms with a smartphone app while still on the store floor or add a dress she saw online to make sure she tries it on during her visit. Additionally, connected fitting rooms enabled with product awareness via technologies like RFID can then make recommendations based on a shopper's selected items, known preferences, and previous browsing history. This way, an individual can easily try on the dress she saw on the model when she first walked in the store without having to find a store associate, and can even request a different color or size from an associate all without having to leave the fitting room.

Arm store associates with information at their fingertips. Enabling the personal shopping experience behind the scenes is the connected associate.  Mobile devices can connect these associates to provide valuable information on shoppers and merchandise, while also allowing them to easily communicate in real-time with customers in fitting rooms or other associates across a multi-story or department store. This insight helps associates to track customer requests and easily check-in with managers and other associates during periods of high traffic to make sure each shopper's needs are being addressed by the store team as whole in a timely manner.

By implementing new technologies that merge the digital and physical worlds, such as those listed above, innovative retailers can stay ahead of the curve and usher in the next-generation in-store shopping experience. The 1:1 retailing approach helps to better engage consumers by offering them a customized experience throughout their journey, both online and off.

Andy Wong is co-founder and vice president of client services, Mobispoke.
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