2016 has been quite a tumultuous year for retail. We’ve seen the Brexit effect followed by plummeting markets after Donald Trump’s surprise win in the US presidential election. We’d really like to put it all behind us by taking a look at some of the big customer experience innovations in store for retailers in 2017.
Whilst there is no denying the success of e-commerce – as revenues continue to grow worldwide – 85% of shoppers say that they still prefer to shop in real, physical stores. They want to see, touch or try on the goods before they make their purchase. They like the experience of browsing in store or discovering unexpected items.
Speaking to Marketing Land magazine, Tamar Weinberg suggests that retailers should be focusing on user experience if they want to keep their physical stores alive:
“There’s just something about walking into a store and touching products with our hands that the online world can’t replicate. And that’s why amping up on user experience is what will save brick-and-mortar retail. UX is after all, the new marketing.”
Weinberg suggests four big marketing innovations that will help keep the High Street alive in the coming year:
1. A unified, cross-channel customer experience
2. Interactive displays and digital signs
3. Beacons and wearable tech
4. Augmented reality and games
Unifying the cross-channel experience
A great example of a brand who have successfully translated their product aesthetic into the design of their physical stores is Apple. The tech giant’s elegant and distinctive retail designs have not gone unnoticed on this blog. When you walk into an Apple Store the brand is instantly recognisable through it’s skilful translation into the retail design.
Weinberg suggests that we are going to see much more of this cross-channel aesthetic applied in order to reinforce brand identity in the coming year. She suggests that many more physical stores and storefronts will be consistent across all channels – including social media, e-commerce, apps and in store.
The principle challenge for retail designers will be to engineer the flow of this multichannel experience so that customers discover exclusive incentives during their retail journey – whether they shop online or in person.
As discussed on the blog over the past year, many stores have begun to incorporate LCD signs and touch screen technology in store, in order to facilitate tactile and engaging brand interactions with customers.
In 2017 – as the Internet of Things (IOT) grows more pervasive – these interactive displays will become commonplace and will work even harder to engage with customers. As well as providing entertainment or information, screens will track customer’s traffic and attention and can even scan faces to target advertising. This information can provide retailers with valuable insights into customers and their shopping habits in order to create more engaging experiences.
Beacons – which push information to customers via smart devices or wearable tech via Bluetooth – are also becoming increasingly popular. Weinberg suggests that we can expect to see many more of these used to enhance customer experience in the coming year. Marketers are finding more creative ways to incorporate them into retail environments.
The Pokémon Effect
The rise of augmented reality and virtual reality gaming holds a world of exciting possibilities for retailers and according to Weinberg, have already begun to transform how people buy.
As the technology becomes more accessible, we can expect to see more of it being utilised in bricks-and-mortar stores. For example, within interactive displays or smartphone apps which augment what is physically visible in store.
Advances in virtual reality also provide shoppers with opportunities for improved visualisation. ‘Holoroom’ kiosks can help users to visualise how their room might look with different furniture or fittings before they commit to large purchases.
Branded games can stimulate brand loyalty and incentivise sales with rewards including coupons, deals and samples. These have evolved from simple product placement to fully immersive experiences.
The popularity of augmented reality games like Pokémon have also helped drive traffic to specific physical locations where retailers are then capitalising on the increased footfall, as we recently reported on the blog.
Personalisation to support experience
As we’ve often discussed on the blog, personalisation is the key to creating the perfect customer experience – and Weinberg agrees, suggesting that retail must adapt to the shifting nature of consumer behaviour. What all of these four innovations seek to address is how the retail experience can be personalised to appeal to each individual customer in order to resonate with their individual preferences and feelings – to ultimately drive sales, increase brand loyalty and encourage repeat custom.