As the world becomes increasingly digital and e-commerce is often more convenient than going to the store, how should physical experiences evolve?
I recently spoke with Owen Frivold, executive vice president of strategy at Hero Digital — a company whose work is described on its website as “building experiences for transformational growth.” We talked about how physical stores can use technology in the future to provide a competitive advantage.
Technology can bridge the gap between home and store
With a clear demand for omnichannel retail, Frivold suggests brands should invest wisely, focusing on “technology and platforms that enable a seamless CX experience on all fronts.”
“Some of these examples include enabling WiFi in physical stores to improve personalization, mobile capability with in-store maps for inventory locations, and AI chatbots that speed up customer service requests across all customer service channels. communications,” he said. At the same time, Frivold emphasizes the need for interactive, data-driven technologies.
“For example, brands can invest in digital in-store platforms that allow customers to compare two products at once without having to rely on their smartphone. This gives consumers the benefits of shopping online while enjoying the in-person experience. »
But it’s not a one-size-fits-all case, of course. Different retailers will want to create different experiences and achieve different goals through technology.
“For example, a furniture store can leverage e-commerce capabilities to increase basket size, build customer loyalty, or expand audience reach, while a healthcare provider can use its capabilities e-commerce platform to publicize vital information and ensure information is presented to the right people,” Frivold suggests.
Ultimately, brands should always focus on the key factors customers look for when shopping. “With furniture and home design, consumers tend to care more about layout and comfort level and would prefer to try or test items before buying,” he says. “Technology can bridge the gap between their in-store and home experience by allowing them to quickly draw and project their home settings into the showroom where furniture is set up with a projector or VR set and board interactive. This allows customers to see the furniture in a real scenario. »
Personalization and time saving are paramount
Frivold believes personalization is the key to creating better in-store experiences – a move away from the “generic information and advertisements that modern consumers are inundated with”.
Going deeper, he proposes that time-saving features become increasingly important. “Customers tend to get discouraged if the space is crowded with other customers,” he says. “By giving customers the option to queue digitally or book appointments in advance, customers will experience that feeling of speed they get when shopping online, maximizing the time customers spend shopping. shop instead of waiting in line.”
Additionally, Frivold says, “optimizing the testing and ‘exhibition’ phase can’t be ignored,” that is, how stores best present selections to customers.
“For a clothing store, a smart mirror that allows customers to contact a stylist or support and browse potential Pinterest-inspired outfits in the dressing room can go a long way. Another successful experience I’ve seen is that of in-store interactive gaming stations to engage non-shoppers.”
Finally, Frivold says investing in the fundamentals of physical retail, such as the purchase and return process, can go a long way. “A quick and easy return process across all platforms can speed up purchases and ensure safety in physical retail. This can be accomplished using return kiosks in different areas where stores are not easily accessible. or using Starship robots for deliveries and returns,” he says.
Sephora and IKEA set the bar for in-store experience
When it comes to the most impressive retail experiences, Frivold cites Sephora’s Virtual Artist, which leveraged technology from Modiface (now owned by L’Oréal), as the gold standard for virtual try-ons. .
“It’s a great example of personalization that appeals to the consumer. By providing the ability to virtually try on makeup, customers can imagine what products will look like and increase their chances of purchase, while simultaneously decreasing the risk that the product will not meet their expectations,” he says.
Frivold also cites IKEA and its app (which allows customers to furnish a specific space in their home through 3D room measurements) as another particularly impressive example.
“It’s the future of home design – being able to design your home in an app and automatically put products on hold in store,” he says. “The level of visualization these two experiences provide is what consumers expect from retailers today. By taking advantage of these different virtual trials, brands can truly immerse the customer in their products. »
Nuanced and personalized interactions generate true loyalty
Finally, with many other brands entering the “metaverse” (however you want to define it), including Gucci and Estee Lauder, Frivold says this trend is likely to shape the future of retail, “using technology not only to further immerse customers throughout the buying process, but also by increasing personalization based on customer data.
He continues, “Companies will likely dig into the data and use that information to identify promotions and offers for each individual consumer.
Ultimately, Frivold thinks, “this shift will force businesses and consumers to adopt digital wallets and currencies to transact, which can lead to major changes in the retail market with respect to payments and lending.” ‘currency acceptance’.
As for other upcoming industry developments, Frivold says that, overall, CX will become more sophisticated with the use of automated AI and predictive customer models.
“2022 will bring more customer-centric, digitally-focused CX that works both in-store and in online channels,” he explains. “With the intensification of labor shortages and the persistence of Covid, brands need to rethink their CX strategy. Even in stores, interpersonal interaction may no longer be the main source of contact with the customer. “
Again, Frivold brings the subject back to data, with “brands able to effectively leverage customer data able to drive huge CX gains as customers expect a more nuanced and personalized interaction with brands.”
“Thus, stores will begin to focus less on interpersonal in-store interactions and more on hands-on CX and building real customer relationships through personalized loyalty programs.”
Join us on April 27, in London or virtually, for Econsultancy Live: CX2022where we’ll hear from a range of speakers, including from retail, and discuss the latest trends via panel discussions with peers.