After a surge in the online shopping experience, you may be surprised to hear the high street is also enjoying an injection of popularity. A recent survey has shown that weekly shoppers were heading to the high street up to 40% more in 2015, with that figure set to rise to 44% by 2018. As shopping becomes more of a social activity, often done prior to ordering online, what can the retail sector do to capture this and use it effectively to boost their sales?
With the expertise of QUIZ Clothing, who offer a range of going out dresses online and offline, we take a look at how in-store tech can help craft a vital customer experience on the high street.
An in-store upgrade
The initial effects of technology on the retail industry was felt mainly in the form of e-commerce. 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?
Customers particularly approve of in-store information kiosks, data reveals. 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.
In-store technology can also support staff in finding out information for the customer. 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.
Another up-and-coming in-store technology is augmented reality. 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.
Increasing store visits
Technology can also be enlisted to help promote a brand or store’s image. 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.
A store’s image can be impacted by the use, or lack, of technology. One study revealed that 46% of those surveyed said that a positive experience due to well-functioning technology increases their brand confidence.
Technology isn’t infallible
Technology can be a little hit-and-miss at times, as we’ve all experienced. This can be frustrating and add time onto a customer’s visit which may result in a negative experience.
RetailWeek revealed that two thirds of customer have had problems with in-store technology breaking down. Unfortunately, this then affects sales — one third of customers said that they were unable to complete their transactions because of the technology difficulties.
Just like with any other experience, a bad experience with in-store technology can deter a customer returning to the store. Retailers must keep software and technologies updates and well-maintained to avoid issues like this. Similarly, if technology is difficult to use, this can deter customers from getting involved with it. 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.
Technology can be a valuable asset to enhance the in-store experience. Although customers are happy to shop online, they also enjoy shopping as a leisure activity and appreciate an interactive experience when doing so.