Technology: A Threat or Solution for Retail?

Across the headlines, technology is portrayed as having a negative impact on retail stores with e-commerce driving footfall away from high-streets and shopping centres. However, technology is quickly becoming a key part of the physical shopping experience: retailers that are successfully embedding new technologies into stores are seeing increased footfall, longer dwell time and boosted sales.

Market research

As the retail market has become flooded with competition – online being a massive player – physical store success is highly determined by the customer experience. Consumers want a personal, memorable and convenient experience and to deliver this, retailers need to leverage the data available. Shopper tracking technology allows stores to monitor consumer journeys, key dwell time areas and the average number of visitors to make a purchase, and consequently, adapt the store layout to improve experiences as well as revenue.

Innovative engagement

Technology can massively improve customer engagement. Kiosks and touch screens are commonly used throughout stores and shopping centres, allowing customers to search for products, complete a payment or make enquiries – all of which improve convenience. Taking it further, some brands are innovatively implementing technology into the shopping experience. John Lewis has launched an augmented reality app feature to allow shoppers to “try on” lipsticks without having to physically put on and take off multiple products. In addition, Zara’s concept store at Westfield Stratford includes interactive mirrors equipped with RFID which detects garments and makes outfit suggestions.

Personalised communication

Direct marketing campaigns are essential to engage with shoppers and meet their personalised expectations. Data capture can be utilised to send targeted email campaigns, promotions and event invitations, keeping consumers connected with the brand and store. Beacons are also a really intelligent way of communicating with guests, pushing relevant notifications or targeted promotions when a potential consumer approaches a store.

Maximising click and collect

Click and collect is an excellent combination of online and offline retail. Online retail is only growing and although it brings competition, landlords and retailers have found an opportunity to drive footfall through ‘click and collect’ by offering free delivery to their local scheme or store.

This strategy drives engaged footfall to centres and stores. Once arrived, if centres and retailers have utilised billboards, customer insights, visual merchandising, tenant mix and engaging experiences, dwell time and sales volumes will increase – improving asset value.

Technology is vital for the future success of bricks and mortar retail. According to a survey conducted by SOTI, two-thirds of consumers are more likely to shop at a store that integrates technology into the shopper experience. It’s important for retailers and the wider market/press to begin to see technology as a benefit. It is fuelling e-commerce, however, it is also offering the opportunity to re-imagine physical stores. Technology is allowing a seamless, unique and personalised experience which consumers of today are craving!

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