Things are continuously evolving around us and so is the shopping scenario. With the world being increasingly digitized and connected, shoppers are becoming smarter and tech savvy. The advent of e-commerce has made it convenient for shoppers to buy products online. However, this should not really pose a threat to brick-and-mortar stores. Several surveys have shown that a sizable number of customers still prefer to visit a physical store to make a final purchase after browsing and comparing products online. This is primarily because people still love the physical product experience available at the physical stores.

This means that technology can actually act as a friend for a physical store rather than a competitor. All the retailer needs to do is to evolve and embrace technology in the right way to enhance customer experience. Here are five ways in which technology can help physical retail stores improve customer experience and grow their business.

Provide mobile solutions during shopping

It is the era of mobility and retail shops need to realize this soon if they need to stay relevant and grow their business. Most people today use computers and smartphones to help them in shopping. They like to check out products online before they buy them either online or offline. Added to this is the proliferation of mobile wallets and payment apps which are enabling them to make faster payments. Surprisingly enough, a study by Whisbi revealed that shoppers who use smartphone solutions while shopping spent 25% more at the retail stores.

Hence, retail stores can integrate mobile technology to enhance their in-store customer experience by offering smarter navigation, progressive apps, personalized offers to shoppers and faster checkout/payments thus avoiding long queues.

Personalized recommendations and offers

When it comes to shopping, customers can hardly reject a good deal be it an offer, discount or a recommendation. However, these deals should be personalized and relevant to them. This is where beacons and smartphones play an important role. As soon as shoppers enter a store, beacons placed at the entrance can prompt them to download progressive apps and opt-in to receive notifications. As customers visit different shopping zones and areas and spend time there, beacons placed in these zones can send out push notifications to the app through Bluetooth, which could be offers, recommendations and discount that may be of interest to the customer. Additionally, beacons can also be used to send product information when customers are browsing the shelves.

Enhancing reality

Technology has reached a point where customers can not only look and touch the product but also feel and experience a virtual product. This is done through virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). Retail stores can implement AR and VR by providing shoppers interactive elements such as interactive content, images and graphics, 3D videos and projections, and immersive experiences. This can enhance customer engagement and brand loyalty. Several retailers such as Ferrari, Walmart and Lowe’s have already proven the potential of AR in retail when it comes to successful customer engagement.

Navigational Support

Searching for items they need when they visit a retail store is usually a painful process for most shoppers as they have to navigate the entire store to find these items. Very often, the designated aisles and shelves, as well as the store personnel too, prove to be of little or no help in finding these items. A GPS and progressive app-enabled smart navigation solution can help customers find their way around in the store and locate the items they need in the right aisle and shelf with convenience, thus enhancing their in-store shopping experience. 

Intelligent personal assistant

In a digital era where people can buy almost anything online, shoppers don’t go to retail stores anymore just to make a purchase. It is really the shopping experience which draws them towards certain brands and retail outlets. While many of the stores have started providing personalized shopping experiences to customers, they can take it one step further through the implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) based smart personal assistants. These personal assistants can be deployed inside the store across the digital displays to enable customer interactions by assisting them during the early stages of their shopping journey. Machine learning enables these devices to learn from every customer interaction and help them better in their product and shopping choices.

To conclude

For a long time, brick-and-mortar stores have feared technology and considered it a threat to their business. However, they need to realize that while e-commerce has its place and may offer certain advantages, they too can use technology to their advantage in enhancing in-store experience for their customers, making their business data-driven and reaping the benefits in the form of improved sales and more loyal customers.

Originally published , updated May 07 2018