A strong technology strategy doesn’t just attract new customers, but can create a positive memory that keeps shoppers coming back for more, writes Edwin Stam, Chief Technology Officer at Hatch.
Technology has been used to improve customer engagement and experience for many years now, and its benefits extend across both online and offline retail. From VR to cool new gadgets, consumers love immersive experiences – especially when it comes to livening up in-store shopping.
Amid the rise of online retail, it’s no secret that physical retail sales are down, meaning brands and retailers need to work harder to create memorable and engaging in-store experiences – making the trip worthwhile for shoppers.
We're going to explore the relationship between technology and customer experience and how utilizing in-store technology can help attract and retain customers.
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Types of in-store technology
There are various types of technology utilized in-store today, each with different benefits.
- Touch-screen tablets and kiosks (allowing customers to browse and purchase conveniently)
- Digital signage (displaying brand ads or engaging product tutorials)
- VR installations (e.g. live events or virtual tours)
- AR experiences (e.g. virtual fitting rooms)
- Mobile apps (allowing customers to ‘click and collect’ or order to fitting room)
- Robots! (aiding with everything from finding products to carrying shopping)
- ‘Where to Buy’ technology (providing customers with local store details and stock information)
In-store technology and customer experience
In a 2017 survey among UK consumers, more than half of respondents said they’d like to see AI-powered technologies, like smart mirrors and VR, in high street stores.
So how can in-store technology benefit customer experience?
Simplifies the checkout process
Shoppers hate queuing; it’s a fact. Technology solutions such as ‘scan and go’ and self-service checkouts simplify and speed up the purchase process, so busy consumers can be in and out of the store asap – just the way they like it.
Consumers today want everything as quickly and conveniently as possible, with 52 percent of shoppers saying that half or more of their purchases are influenced by convenience. Offering in-store technology solutions such as mobile apps, touch-screen kiosks, and the checkout solutions mentioned above can massively increase convenience.
Aids purchase decisions
Consumers are notoriously indecisive, so using technology to help them make decisions in-store can help customers choose the right product and minimize returns. A great example of this is from Road Runners who has introduced technology into its stores that scans customers’ feet to find the perfect fitting shoe.
Creates fun and memorable experiences
Delivering fun and engaging in-store experiences with technology keeps customers engaged, keeps brands in consumers’ minds, and encourages repeat purchases and word-of-mouth reviews. Essentially, if a shopper has a good experience in your store, they’re more likely to come back and more likely to tell their friends.
Gives an option to ‘try before you buy’
77 percent of consumers believe the biggest advantage of shopping in-store is the ability to touch, try on and see products, so allowing customers this opportunity with things like AR technology can encourage in-store sales.
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In-store technology benefits for businesses
It’s not just about benefits for consumers; technology can aid brands and retailers in many ways, too.
Hosting in-store campaigns such as AR implementations can create a real buzz between shoppers and encourage in-store footfall. John Lewis previously introduced an AR implementation that allowed customers to re-design a room in their home via a 3D room set on a tablet, or enter a virtual room matching a room in their home using a VR headset. After the experience, customers were emailed details of the space with shoppable links, therefore encouraging sales.
Increases dwell time
Once you’ve got customers into a store, you’ve got to keep them there, and if your technology is up to scratch, it shouldn’t be too hard. Many businesses experience an increased dwell time when utilizing technology. One example is when BT sport brought VR into EE stores allowing customers to watch a full football match through VR headsets.
Technology has been proven to influence in-store sales, with electronics and apparel product categories possessing the highest digital influence factor (24 percent). Plus, once consumers enter a store, they’re more likely to make impulse purchases, with 84.8 percent of Brits admitting to impulse buying in brick and mortar stores.
Encourages customer retention
If customers have a good experience at a store, they’re more likely to become repeat customers (and they’re more likely to tell their friends about you).
Omni-channel technology and customer experience
Technology forms the backbone of omnichannel retail, and in 2021, we all understand the importance of omnichannel retail for a first-class customer experience.
We believe one of the most important tech advancements is enabling a range of purchase options for consumers. Technology like a Where to Buy Local solution, which bridges the gap between online and brick-and-mortar stores, helps drive shoppers to local retail stores, increasing in-store footfall and sales.
Experiential retail: Reinventing the physical store
With the closing of many brick and mortar stores throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the purpose of the high street store is being reimagined, putting technology and immersive experiences at the forefront.
In-store shopping is set to become less about purchasing and more about creating memorable customer experiences through technological solutions.
When executed correctly, technology can not only attract new customers but can also create a positive memory and keep shoppers coming back for more.
What’s your business doing to keep customers engaged in 2021?
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Edwin Stam, CTO, Hatch