While it may appear otherwise, brick and mortar stores still drive the majority of retail purchases. Retail stores today, however, look and approach the shopping experience very differently from stores of the past. With the emergence of advanced technology, stores are in an age of rapid experimentation and transformation, as they face the increasingly difficult task of luring customers in store.
Consumers today are seeking more personalized shopping experiences—a mandate that is becoming a vital condition for retail store success. According to a study by BRP Consulting, 79% of consumers indicated that personalized service was an important factor in determining which store they choose. Technology is playing a critical role in the ability for retailers to fulfill these new demands. Capabilities such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality are being leveraged to provide shoppers with a
real-life vision of products to help finalize purchasing decisions. As retailers evolve the shopping journey, brands are constantly searching for ways to differentiate their in‑store experience. Here are a few ways brick and mortar stores are redefining the modern shopping experience.
Retailers are certainly getting creative. I was very interested in Kohl’s latest endeavor and how they partnered with Amazon to offer free returns. It initially seemed counterintuitive to partner with a competitor, but their strategy is actually driving more traffic and sales for Kohl’s. This creative partnership is keeping Kohl’s relevant today, but the question is—will it still yield success tomorrow? How retailers choose to measure success will directly influence their strategies to achieve that success. Ultimately, choices in measuring success may define winners and losers on the retail battlefield. A survey from Retail Systems Research revealed that retail “winners” expect innovation to drive concrete results (66%) like return on investment but retail “non‑winners” regard the primary metrics of success to be customer satisfaction (60%) or traffic and conversion (53%).
Any disconnects between online and in-store shopping experiences severely damage the customer experience. Truly unified commerce experiences are required for retailers to compete effectively today. Omni-channel is no longer a theory, but rather the foundation of the retail experience that ensures consistency across in-store, online, and mobile interactions—including access to inventory, shopping carts, order status and order history. The customer experience must work seamlessly across every point of the customer journey to meet the expectations of today’s consumers.
Digital transformation and supporting infrastructure
Retailers who continue to be successful under the current market conditions require a solid understanding of their strengths and opportunities. Going forward, the retailers that will prevail are those with the most complete digital transformation strategies, the sharpest focus and the most financial flexibility. To support this transformation, the network infrastructure must be just as flexible as the innovative technology it connects. A recent report from BRP Consulting states: “As retailers move to cloud-based unified commerce, full access to enterprise-wide data in real time will become more common, as it is a necessity to survive.” Retailers must think of their networks as enablers of a unified commerce strategy; providing highly-secure, always-on access to critical applications and data that is critical for success, both now and in the future.
While the popularity of e-commerce will continue to grow, the brick and mortar store is not going away. Retailers will continuously evolve to meet the needs of today’s most tech-savvy shoppers, reinventing the shopping experience as they go along.
Molly True served as the Industry Marketing Staff Manager at Windstream Enterprise for the healthcare, retail and financial services industries. Prior to joining Windstream, Molly served as the Senior Healthcare Marketing Manager for Avaya. She holds a CPHIMS (Certified Professional in Health Information & Management Systems) from HIMSS and is a national member of HIMSS. Molly has her MBA from Meredith College and her BS in Computer Science from Appalachian State University. She also has product management, service product management, and product marketing experience.
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