Why the In-Store Experience Still Matters

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Why the In-Store Experience Still Matters

By Jason Miller, Chief Strategist of Commerce, Akamai Technologies - 04/13/2016
Rising consumer expectations are driving retailers to look for new ways to innovate and improve customer experiences both online and in store. The constantly connected apparel shopper uniquely challenges retailers to match pricing and inventory across their e-commerce platforms, apps and points of sale.

To underscore the importance of seamless channels, Forrester research estimates that mobile devices influenced more than $1 trillion dollars of sales both online and in store in 2015. Some of this brick-and-mortar success can be attributed to retailers using mobile technologies such as geofencing, beacons, loyalty apps and push notifications to lure more shoppers into their sales.

Sure, the tactile nature of in-store shopping is nice, but what is often missing from the in-store experience is the personalization available online. When you walk into a store, the store associates (often) don't know you. When shopping for apparel, you select a few items to try on, lug those items into fitting rooms and if they don't fit, you're probably going to give up.

Retailers are finding new ways to personalize the in-store shopping experience. By utilizing Hointer's technology, major retailers are piloting in-store technologies to replace racks of apparel with elegant showrooms and efficient micro warehouses in the backs of their stores.

Instead of carrying items throughout the store, customers use mobile phones or small IoT devices, called Magic Wands (also developed by Hointer) to select the items, which appear in less than 30 seconds in their fitting rooms or checkout counters. Retailers are also experimenting with personalization software engines that allow sales teams to suggest matching items and styles for customers to try on.

According to Hointer CEO Nadia Shouraboura, this new way of shopping allows "retailers to offer personalized experiences, helping customers to find trendy looks carefully picked for them by designers, without the hassle of walking around the store. Today, re-inventing physical stores is a lot more fun because customers are very supportive and they want retailers to combine the convenience of online shopping with in-store tactile experiences."

Shouraboura expects that the retail industry will see a transformation as it works to make physical stores more inspirational through new technologies. Shouraboura notes that "we are also going to see an increasingly faster delivery online and we'll also see more products going online, particular within the grocery industry. This innovative store format presents a new perspective on integrated retail within a brick-and-mortar store."

Hointer's work with top retailers proves that no matter how easy and fun it has become to shop online, sometimes customers just want to visit an actual store. And when they're there, they'll expect that experience to be personal, and they'll want it to integrate with their mobile devices. As these expectations continue to evolve, retailers of all kinds will be challenged to innovate and improve across all channels.

Jason Miller is chief strategist of commerce of Akamai Technologies.

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