Technology is helping retailers create many memorable in-store experiences for customers, opening up new areas of a brand that were never thought possible.
Almost two thirds of shoppers say the biggest impact wearable technology will have on the in-store customer experience will be speeding up checkouts, according to a survey for Vista Retail Support.
The poll, exploring consumer attitudes to wearable devices such as smart watches, wristbands and fobs, also found 52 per cent of shoppers believe it would be a real advantage not to have to carry a wallet or remember PINs and passwords.
‘Wearable technology is one of the biggest weapons bricks-and-mortar retailers will have in their armoury,’ says James Pepper, technical director at Vista Retail Support. ‘Rather than just being a pipe dream, these results show exactly how consumers want to improve the in-store experience. We know that the battle for shoppers is a tough one, and providing a speedier checkout experience is one major way retailers can differentiate themselves from the competition.’
However, 70 per cent of those surveyed believe that the new £30 limit on payments using wearable technology is still too low. Only 30 per cent are happy with the current limit that recently came into force. Nearly a third (32 per cent) want the limit lifted to £50, while 16 per cent are in favour of a £100 limit and the same percentage want no limit at all. Only six per cent wanted a £40 limit.
Single Line Auto-ECF solution from Tensator
Research by journey specialist Tensator Group has revealed that shoppers aren’t as au fait with the concept of self-service as retailers would have us believe. ‘The study showed that one in three of us has walked out of a store because of a bad experience with a self-service till, whilst 60 per cent of the people we spoke to prefer to be served by a member of staff,’ says Kevin Hickson, general manager at Tensator Group.
With that in mind, the priority for a lot of stores at the moment is speeding up and controlling queues at staffed till points. Consequently, Electronic Call Forward (ECF) systems have become a primary focus for Tensator Group. ‘Speed of processing and improved operational efficiency are the obvious plus points, but we’re also seeing more retailers becoming accustomed to the idea of making the queue work for them too. This is why we’re starting to see a greater use of digital signage within the queuing structure. Not only can it be used to push impulse sales, but many are also now using it as an additional revenue stream by selling it as third party advertising space. The interesting thing is that ECF systems are no longer just benefiting high street stores. We are starting to see interest from larger format retailers too, particularly supermarkets.’
Tommy Hilfer has introduced virtual reality in-store
Tommy Hilfiger is embracing in-store technology and offering its customers something more in the form of virtual reality. Hosted in select Tommy Hilfiger stores and wholesale partners globally, customers can watch the Fall 2015 Hilfiger collection runway show from a front-row seat in 360-degree 3D virtual reality, and then immediately shop the collection. Using a Samsung GearVR device, shoppers have an immersive virtual experience that gives them a perfect view of the runway and provides an exclusive sneak peak backstage.
‘We are driven by a vision to exceed consumer expectations, inspire them and offer retail experiences they never thought possible,’ says Daniel Grieder, CEO of Tommy Hilfiger. ‘Through cutting-edge virtual reality technology, we can invite shoppers to experience the Hilfiger Collection fashion show from a front row seat. We’re using virtual reality to open the doors to a unique part of our world, directly connecting the consumers in our retail space with one of our largest brand events each season.’
The introduction of virtual reality in stores reflects Tommy Hilfiger’s mission to elevate the shopping experience through digital innovation; these technological integrations in the retail space are evolving traditional brick-and-mortar set-ups and increasing opportunities for social engagement. The concept has been created in collaboration with WeMakeVR, a developer of 360 degree 3D virtual reality experiences. The show was captured with the WeMakeVR-Falcon, a proprietary camera.
‘Our special virtual reality cameras, combined with Tommy Hilfiger’s creative vision of the Fall ’15 Hilfiger Collection fashion show, resulted in an experience that goes beyond that of VIP guests,’ explains Avinash Changa, founder and CEO of WeMakeVR. ‘Users get an incredible peek behind the scenes; they stand next to models right before they walk out onto the runway, and they feel the excitement of being backstage after the show.’
Indyme has worked closely with apparel retailers to create its new SmartFit fitting room management system.
The fitting room is another area where technology is improving the customer experience. According to new research by customer engagement and loss prevention specialist, Indyme, consumers who use fitting rooms are three times more likely to purchase than those who don’t use them.
As such a crucial location in the path to purchase, it’s surprising that retailers are not taking advantage of the rich data stream that fitting rooms can provide. By installing a fitting room management system, retailers can now detect presence in the fitting room, allow customers to request assistance, log theft events, calculate store traffic conversion to fitting room utilisation as well as the time spent in the fitting room and much, much more.
‘We’ve already seen a significant increase in the use of retail technology to provide the sector with greater awareness for consumer demands and reactions in store. Given that the fitting room is where a large proportion of consumers make their purchasing decisions, retailers must ensure that consumers have a positive fitting room experience. Real time, accurate data provides retailers with a rich data stream that can be used to foster positive in-store customer engagement strategies and give the fitting room the attention it so rightly deserves,’ says Joe Budano, CEO of Indyme.
Indyme has worked closely with apparel retailers to create its new SmartFit fitting room management system. This enables retailers to link fitting room activity with traffic data to help retailers understand and improve utilisation, resulting in increased conversion and sales. Armed with this data, retailers can make intelligent policy decisions including whether to lock or unlock fitting rooms and even alert security or in-store personnel on unusual dwell activity. In addition, it enables customers to request different sizes or colours from within the fitting room, which drives positive satisfaction scores and increased unit purchases and average ticket values.
Many opticians are embracing technology advancements in store, allowing them to engage more with their customer base. Customers can virtually ‘try on’ frames in front of a screen to see if they suit them.
A touch-enabled screen at Kite opticians allows customers to try on frames and share photos via social media.
At the London flagship of optician, Kite GB, designed by Fourmation, a touch-enabled point-of-sale unit uses a 42in diagonal Zytronic touch sensor integrated into a toughened mirror, allowing customers to take photos of themselves wearing different frames then post them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms. Friends and family can look at the photos and give their opinions. The project was implemented through Zytronic integration partner, Display Technology.
‘The vast majority of dispensing opticians havent considered how technology can help them engage with their customers. We really wanted to enhance the user experience and provide an environment that is conducive to social sharing,’ says Asad Hamir, CEO of Kite GB. ‘The two-phase mirror function is extremely advantageous for the Kite unit. It gives it the appearance of an elegant silver mirror when the monitor is not lit, consistent with the stylish décor of the store,’ explains Ian Crosby, Zytronic’s sales and marketing director. ‘It then becomes instantly transparent when the monitor is activated so that an intuitive touch-screen interface materialises.’
Custom software has been specially developed for Cubitts opticians in Marshall Street, Soho by German facial recognition experts. The Cubitts Facial Guage takes your photo, and using a fixed point of reference can measure the key features of your face, such as the temple distance, width of your bridge, and length and splay of your nose.
The IRIS suite from One iota will give retailers full control of the digital signage across all of their stores.
One iota has introduced IRIS, In-store Retail Interactive Screens, a cloud-based solution that will revolutionise the way that retailers are able to launch, manage and customise in-store campaigns for shoppers across their store-wide estate instantly.
‘The IRIS suite will give retailers full control of the digital signage across all of their stores, enabling them to deliver instant campaigns in-store within specific regions, individual stores or across the whole store estate — all easily controlled from head office using simple web-based tools. The main challenge to date has been trying to control and manage such campaigns quickly and effectively across desired stores, as up until now many of these processes have been manual,’ explains Damian Hanson, CEO of One iota.
‘Bridging the gap between online and in-store is currently a key priority for retailers, and as such we are working hard to ensure we have the technology in place, joining up the physical store and the online offering through basket transfer and dual basket functionality — the holy grail of customer satisfaction,’ concludes Hanson.
Damian Hanson, CEO of One iota, offers his tips on what to consider when integrating technology within the store environment to create a truly omni-channel in-store shopping experience:
Recognise what they need to get right
There are three fundamentals that the retailer needs to ensure are in place when considering their in-store experience:
1. Ensure the store is formatted and fitted out in the right way.
2. Ensure the offering is fully connected from a multi-channel perspective across desktop, mobile, table, native apps and in-store devices.
3. And crucially, ensure that the combination of the above two is brilliantly executed — this is the cornerstone of a successful proposition.
Recognise there are no second chances
If a potential customer goes into a store and can’t get the item they want, they may never go back. If, however, through the use of technology, they can order an out of stock item for next day delivery, they walk away satisfied and the benefits are obvious to see, for both the retailer and the customer. The old adage that a customer will tell two people about a great experience and 10 people about a bad one rings true.
Recognise that the store is a retailer’s most powerful marketing channel
Billboard, TV and magazine campaigns indisputably have their place, however they don’t give the retailer any control over exactly how the customer will receive their messages and it can be hard to grab the shopper’s undivided attention. In store, however, the retailer is able to fully control the environment and can use the store atmosphere to its full potential to tell a brand story, so it’s key that this opportunity is maximised.
Recognise where and how technology will work in your store
It sounds obvious, but retailers need to look at areas of the store that have a naturally higher footfall and level of customer engagement — for example, changing rooms, escalators, the shoe section and the main doors — and utilise them. It’s key that retailers truly understand the store layout to be able to evaluate where technology is likely to have the most impact in store.