Editor’s Note: While digital retail flourishes, it doesn’t necessarily mean brick-and-mortar stores are a thing of the past. In fact, big retailers are betting big on hybrid, in-store experiences such as sending clothes to fitting rooms before a customer physically arrives. Even BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), a technology that has existed for several years, has gotten a refresh as retailers create a more streamlined adoption process for it. All of this advancement is best suited for a cloud-optimized network that can grow with new innovations.
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Digitization has been a hot topic for quite some time now—but the speed at which offline retailers have had to digitize their sales and operations, due to competitive pressure and the many changes the pandemic has brought on, has been tough and impressive.
“As with the broader world, digitization is touching every aspect of retail. Brick-and-mortar stores are working to integrate digital technologies to help streamline the in-store experience,” says Hillary Cullum, Founder of HSC Advisors, a retail consultancy.
“The biggest impact we are seeing for clients who have traditionally done the bulk of their business in physical retail is better and cleaner data. As digital transformation slowly takes hold, and post 2020, these brands and especially retailers now have a goldmine of demand signals at their fingertips. This is improving assortment, store allocations and open-to-buys, simply by being able to track and measure what their customer wanted because she typed it into the search,” says Katharine McKee, Founder of Morphology Consulting, a digital commerce consultancy.
Digital transformation enhancing the in-store experience
“A second, but incredible impact, is taking some of the beauty and flexibility of the digital space and putting it in store. Live streaming fashion shows, beauty tutorials, VR home furnishing so that you can see what fits in your space and looks good, are all huge advancements to the in-store experience where a consumer can touch and feel goods and also be comfortable with usability. It is an added luxurious touch,” adds McKee.
Amazon will bring its first high-tech shopping experience to The Americana at Brand in Los Angeles with digitization at the forefront. There will be no need to physically search for specific sizes, as display items will be equipped with scannable QR codes to request sizes to be sent to fitting rooms or directly for pickup. And interactive fitting rooms will allow customers to request additional sizes or styles without having to leave the room, among many other advancements.
“We all will be closely watching the technologies Amazon is testing in their first physical clothing store which will allow customers to select items online to be waiting in their dressing room as well as access customer reviews. These are the types of in-store technologies that are helping combine a physical and digital experience,” says Cullum.
Popularity of q-commerce
Q-commerce or quick-commerce allows shoppers to get deliveries—typically for smaller orders—in less than an hour of making their purchase. This on-demand delivery is meeting consumer’s desire for instant gratification and gaining popularity fast.
“Looking at retail from an e-commerce perspective, it’s quick online shopping that is the biggest trend these days. In the beginning of the pandemic, next-day delivery from the big stores was all the rage. Then q-commerce followed,” says Marta Subko, CEO of subko&co, a digital marketing agency. “In 2022, it takes just two clicks in one of many q-commerce apps and 15 minutes waiting time to have items delivered at your doorstep. It seems almost impossible to go out and not to see a delivery person within sight nowadays.”
According to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, the five main factors driving the rapid rise of q-commerce are busy lifestyles, urbanisation, smaller households, COVID-19, and aging population.
Improving older systems
The influx of data companies can access with the overall digitization of the retail industry provides much more insights than previously available.
“As retailers are getting that blended data it is improving older systems, like BOPIS (buy online, pick up in store), which have been around forever but had weak adoption as processes weren’t great. Now that brands and retailers have worked out the kinks, it has made huge strides,” says McKee.
Whether creating a larger stockroom to fulfill online orders, or utilizing storefronts to host live-shopping events, brick-and-mortar stores are innovating to make use of their spaces as foot-traffic decreases. And there are plus sides to doing so. For example, live-shopping provides companies with much more data on their potential customers compared to shoppers simply walking into a physical store to browse—and majority of the time walking out without any interaction at the point-of-sale terminal, thus not providing any personal data.
Metaverse and gamification
Metaverse’s infinite environment provides boundless opportunities for retailers—whether it be immersive virtual worlds, exclusive digital products or gamification of the retail experience, it’s providing a brand-new way for consumers to shop.
“Web 3 and the Metaverse are making luxury more accessible and more interesting to the chronically online consumer. Gamification of the purchase process and adding products into video games has brought in a new class of buyer who is looking for a more unique experience and some fun while they shop,” says McKee.
“E-commerce is benefiting greatly from the VR technologies allowing virtual try-ons of clothing and makeup. The ability for a customer to ‘try-on’ a product before clicking the purchase button is helping increase conversion and build customer trust,” says Cullum.
The retail-tech landscape is evolving quickly. And not only from the perspective of the consumer but also for employees. Now co-workers can be in the same room virtually through VR headsets and see each other in real-time in lieu of being in an office together, and companies can utilize this technology for training and on-boarding remotely.
“There are now endless options for retail and fashion to play in the Metaverse in a purely digital sense. Physical products are no longer the only valuable asset,” adds Cullum.
This article was written by Jia Wertz from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
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