The rise of online shopping saw a distinct fall in high street visits. So much so that many speculated that it could herald the end of the high street. But such a doom-and-gloom outlook hasn’t come to pass; in fact, 2015 saw a 40% increase in footfall for shops, and 2018 is expected to witness a 44% rise. What’s bringing people back to offline shopping?
Well, it’s likely down to the fact that shopping is a primarily social activity now, rather than an outright purchasing need. Many shoppers check items in a physical store before looking online to buy later. This makes sense, when you consider the limitations of online shopping — there’s no way to try on those special party dresses you need for the weekend, and the time wasted sending them back if they don’t fit can throw a spanner in the works! So, people like to head to a physical store to try on the dresses first!
High street shops need to shift their focus to stay relevant in the eyes of customers. Here, we take a look at how in-store technology can help achieve this.
How technology can help
With the introduction of the internet and e-commerce for retail, many brands were quick to establish online stores. But, recent research still indicates that people value brick-and-mortar stores — in fact, 81% of UK customers said that the physical stores were vital to the shopping experience. So, when it comes to improving the high-street and implementing in-store technology, what should retailers be getting involved with?
Kiosks that use artificial intelligence to interact with customers are popular. However, not all retailers are getting on board — 66% of those surveyed in one study said that they were yet to encounter artificial intelligence in-store. Do retailers realise the huge potential of this type of technology? In fact, 60% of consumers are attracted to the idea of using them to find products that they weren’t aware of before. As an example, in QUIZ’s digital stores, an in-store kiosk enables visitors to browse the full collection (even if some products aren’t available in-store) and order them to their homes or local store.
Staff can also benefit from in-store tech, using it to help attend to customer needs. One way to do this is by providing employees with handheld iPads or other smart tablets. This allows staff to find the answer to a query, check a product’s availability and place orders for the customer without having to use a fixed computer. This can improve the customer’s experience and help build a stronger brand-to-customer relationship.
Stores are also picking up on the augmented reality trend. This can help the customer with their purchase decision and help them visualise themselves with the product. Although this can be made available through an app, there are also ways to introduce it in-store. In a fashion store for example, a smart mirror can allow customers to dress themselves in different outfits without actually trying them on. Similarly, in a furniture store, visitors can upload a photo of their home and try out pieces of furniture to see if it would suit their rooms.
More store visits
Technology in-store can be a great way to enhance the customer experience. It’s possible that having in-store technology in a physical shop can make a brand more attractive to customers, and potentially a better option over competitors. Some retailers are recognising this too as one report suggested that 53% of retailers view investments in new automations and appliances in-store as vital to keep up with their competitor activity.
Your brand’s image can also be improved and enhanced by in-store technology. One study revealed that 46% of those surveyed said that a positive experience due to well-functioning technology increases their brand confidence.
Maintenance is key
Technology isn’t failsafe, and can sometimes falter. This can be frustrating and add time onto a customer’s visit which may result in a negative experience.
Two-thirds of customers have been affected by in-store tech failure, according to RetailWeek. Unfortunately, this then affects sales — one third of customers said that they were unable to complete their transactions because of the technology difficulties. Negative experiences like this can deter customers from revisiting the store and can make them leave the store with a negative opinion of the brand. Retailers must keep software and technologies updates and well-maintained to avoid issues like this.
Be aware that overly-complicated technology can be a deterrent too. This could make people feel excluded too — in-store tech should be simple to use, and visitors should be accompanied when using it if it’s more complex.
In-store technology is a boost to the social experience of store. Although customers are happy to shop online, they also enjoy shopping as a leisure activity and appreciate an interactive experience when doing so.