Experiences, both online and in-store, are becoming the most important thing retailers sell. As physical and digital experiences converge, they shape and inform each other in new and exciting ways. Online experiences are becoming more physical and physical store experiences are becoming more digitally infused.
Online offers the convenience of shopping anytimeat midnight in your pajamas or during a quick lunch break at work. Online customers can browse options and access consumer data such as reviews, social validation, product specifications and videos. Retailers can use product recommendation technologies to provide Amazon-like differentiatedexperiences online. Leveraging customer analytics, retailers can also curate collections apparel, accessories and footwearto provide personalized, boutique online shopping experiences that help customers easily sort through a vast array of products.
Stores, on the other hand, provide the opportunity for retailers to tell their story in a more immersive way that can help create strong emotional connections with customers. This is because stores provide space for shoppers to experience, learn about, and physically engage with their products, and services. Rather than becoming mere pick-up points, innovative retailers will deliver differentiated in-store experiences that cannot be delivered online.
STORY, for example, is a Manhattan based store that delivers a unique retail experience by featuring eclectic gift items curated around a constantly changing theme. STORY takes the point of view of a magazine. Every four to eight weeks, it reinvents itself with the goal of bringing to their customers light new trends, issues, products and themes. The current theme, Feel Good!, focuses on products and services that support prevention, nutrition, and mindfulness. STORYs physical store changes like a gallery but sells like a store. Shoppers can buy products built around a theme. When the theme was Love Story, for instance, lingerie, chocolates, and scented candles were featured along with underwear made by a Swedish company called Bread & Boxers.
New technologies continue to blur the lines between online and in-store experiences. Like online retailers, stores can now capture data about their customers to provide tailored product recommendations as consumers browse products on site. Using facial recognition software and mobile identification, retailers can deliver relevant, personalized in-store experiences, customizing their sales approach based on the shopper’s purchasing habits. Data about shopper behavior such as average number of store visits and time spent in line can help retailers deliver meaningful differentiated experiences. In addition, technologies that connect with customers cell phones, in combination with heat mapping technology, allow retailers to track customer movements to learn more about their preferences and identify trouble spots in their stores.
Customers are looking for relevant customer experiences that inspire and engage them. Retailers that offer differentiated, tailored experiences that blend the best of online and in-store capabilities to make their customers lives better, safer, and more fun will thrive.