With the news that 1 in 10 shops on the UK’s high streets now lays empty, the future of brick and mortar retail stores is looking increasingly bleak. Pair this with the fact that the UK’s ecommerce turnover is predicted to reach €200 billion this year (a 14.6% rise from last year), and it becomes clear that the future of retail is very much digital.
So, how does physical retail compete with the convenience of online shopping? Well today, our friends over at Action Storage are exploring one solution being favored by many brick and mortar stores across the globe – the implementation of technology.
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash
Enabling a greater convenience
Ecommerce’s greatest appeal is undoubtedly convenience – after all, why bother traipsing into town for that new pair of jeans when they can be delivered straight to your door within a couple of clicks? However, with the implementation of technologies both new and old, physical retail can begin to offer the customer an element of convenience too.
One of the most tried and tested ways of doing this is by offering a click and collect service. By integrating ecommerce platforms with physical retail spaces, customers can enjoy a hassle-free consumer experience that ties together the convenience of online ordering with the ease of picking up at a time and place of their choosing.
A newer technological trend amongst physical retail stores is the rise of smart shops. These stores are often staffless, instead of tracking consumer purchases through self-scan barcode systems. By removing the stress of queues, the physical retail experience instantly becomes convenient and, subsequently, more appealing to consumers.
AI is also becoming a prominent feature in leading brick and mortar stores, streamlining the physical shopping experience further still. Searching through endless racks for a specific item is a thing of the past, with integrated AI systems enabling customers to snap items they see when they’re out and about, searching through a store’s inventory instantly to find the same or similar product (as well as its location within the store).
Personalizing the experience
As more and more stores look to embrace technology, the physical shopping experience is becoming more immersive and personal in every aspect.
For example, cognitive computer technology can now interact directly with the customer to find out more about what it is they’re searching for. From this information, AI systems can make informed, personalized recommendations to the customer, personalizing the shopping system from the off.
Furthermore, leading fashion retailers such as Ralph Lauren have implemented the latest in retail technological innovation in their dressing rooms with the use of interactive mirrors. These mirrors enable customers to change the colour of their item without having to go back out onto the shop floor and search for it, as well as suggesting items to complement their chosen piece – in essence, acting as the customer’s own personal stylist.
What’s more, with the use of mPOS (mobile point of sale), near-field communications and Bluetooth, retailers can now be notified when returning customers enter the store, enabling them to greet the customer by name and provide personalised, targeted promotions – engaging and converting more customers as a result.
Photo by Marcin Kempa on Unsplash
The implementation of technology in physical retail is perhaps the most valuable asset to brick and mortar stores looking to survive the ecommerce revolution. Boasting a variety of benefits to both consumers and retailers alike, one thing’s for sure – whether it’s physical or ecommerce retail, the future is very much digital.