To Appeal To Modern Consumers, Retailers Merge Physical And Digital Space
For brick-and-mortar retailers across the U.K., the transition to e-commerce hasn’t been an easy one. More consumers are purchasing goods online or on their mobile device. An expected 18% of all retail purchases will occur online this year, Nasdaq reported.
The seamless nature of online retail has put pressure on big-box retailers and brick-and-mortar stores to innovate their offerings. To appeal to more consumers, traditional retailers have started to marry the digital and physical space. Several stores are beginning to incorporate emerging trends like mobile payments, digital scanners and artificial intelligence technology, adding a new level of efficiency to the modern shopping experience.
Mobile Apps That Streamline The Physical Shopping Experience
As retailers realise that physical and digital experiences are not mutually exclusive, they are getting creative about how they can leverage mobile apps and platforms to improve the brick-and-mortar shopper experience. One of the first large retailers to pioneer this concept was Starbucks. In 2015, the coffee chain launched its mobile order and pay functionality, allowing customers to order and pay using their Starbucks app, allowing users to cut the queue and pick up food and coffee in a matter of seconds.
“We Brits are famous for queuing, but in an age of such sophisticated technology, why wait?” Starbucks EMEA Vice President of Marketing & Category Ian Cranna said in a statement, after the product launched in London. “With more people leading busier lifestyles than ever, saving minutes can really help."
Since the initial launch of Starbucks’ mobile order and pay concept, several other traditional retailers and restaurants have caught on to the trend. McDonald's introduced a mobile order and pay platform in partnership with Wells Fargo as part of a larger “experience of the future” vision. The initiative also aims to merge technology and innovation with the theme of experiential retail, incorporating self-order kiosks and table service at select locations and mirroring fast-casual trends at competitors like Chipotle.
A Checkout-Free Grocery Shopping Experience
To speed up lines and make shopping more efficient, several retailers are experimenting with mobile self-checkout. In March, Co-Op became the first U.K. supermarket to implement a checkout-free grocery shopping experience. The new initiative, called “shop, scan and go,” allows customers to scan items as they shop, using their phone or mobile device. When they finish shopping, customers can deduct the amount they owe from their account with a single click. After completing the transaction, shoppers can also see how much money they saved in real time.
As more grocery stores compete with delivery services like Amazon Fresh and Ocado and meal kits like HelloFresh and Blue Apron, checkout-free grocery options could offer a quick and easy shopping experience for consumers who still want to pick up their groceries.
Investing In Artificial Intelligence To Inform Business Decisions
While more retailers take advantage of opportunities to streamline the shopping experience through mobile apps, others are thinking even further into the future. Several stores are using artificial intelligence and virtual reality to learn more about customers. Intel, for instance, recently introduced a concept for a “smart fitting room,” where a customer would enter a room with an interactive mirror, which recognizes and displays the article of clothing. If the shopper tries it on and is displeased with the look or fit, they can use this technology to request another size or color, which would be delivered by a sales associate directly to the shopper’s fitting room.
Some retailers are even beginning to implement smart mirror solutions that allow shoppers to record a 360-degree video of themselves in a particular outfit, so they can see what it looks like from all angles.
In addition to improving the customer experience by easing the process of trying on clothing, artificial intelligence can provide retailers additional information about consumer shopping habits. New technology can monitor the success of an item by monitoring shoppers’ gestures. Tracking these behaviors can help inform retailers about which products are more popular than others.
If there is one thing retailers are starting to realise, it is that brick-and-mortar is far from dead, but it is ripe for innovation. By integrating data and technology into the physical shopping experience, traditional retailers are staying ahead of the online competition.
This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Gowling WLG. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.