By Stuart Armstrong – ComQi
As Omnichannel has become more than a buzzword, most all emerging research is reinforcing that people no longer see any difference between ‘channels’. In their minds, they buy stuff—sometimes online, sometimes on mobile, sometimes in stores—you get the drift. If they are shopping for something, they’re just shopping based on whatever tool or touchpoint floats their boat at that moment. Simple, right? Conceptually maybe, but to make things *this* fluid, some dots need to be connected—and in physical stores, they are often connected on touch screens.
Why, you might ask, should we be ‘getting touchy’ with shoppers on in-store screens? There are humans helping us in stores, we shouldn’t have to do that! But think a little harder about it. How on earth is the average Joe (or Susan) going to be able to house the limitless info the average screen can deliver via their average brain? Or magically know how to recommend exactly what a customer might like based upon past purchase history? Or be able to give a quick demo perfectly on point 100% of the time? Or quickly share the most recent user reviews on a product to nix any decision doubt? Or quickly order up something that the store doesn’t carry on the shelves without hassle? You get my point. Tech is supposed to help customers help themselves…but it’s also there to help associates help them more successfully too.
I must say, the industry is really impressing me with how they are getting touchy with touch in the store—both with the tech and the use cases. A few notable examples that caught my interest:
- Magic Mirrors like the one MasterCard helped created that lean on RFID to log size and color requests, plus recommend items in-store, to match what the shopper has already taken into the changing room—and also allow them to pay.
- 3D Sensor experiences like those Perch is making real that are able to detect when consumers pick up and put down products and trigger “delightful and informative experiences at that critical moment when they consider purchase.” Kind of like an in-store recommendation engine.
- The new Suning store in Asia called Biu that has their Anywhere AR, making it possible for shoppers to put virtual products into real scenes so that they can make a decision in whatever context they find most relevant. It also has a voice-and text-activated Smart Sue Shopping Assistant and facial payment.
- Ainze & Tulpe, a drugstore in Japan, gets big points for creativity, starting with their interactive street window a few years ago. When people walked by, moving videos of women with different makeup looks smiled and posed, luring people to touch the ‘look’ they liked best—resulting in a coupon in the language of choice. Talk about a traffic driver!
- Harrods created an interactive window for a new Polo Ralph Lauren line that used mobile proximity, an interactive map to find the collection in-store and scannable stickers for instant purchase from the street—and they got a 15% close rate with it. They also started a trend that I keep seeing more examples of—I especially loved when Hiut Denim used graphics and conductive ink to get pedestrians to touch the window to learn about the jeans. It was really novel.
- Home Depot and Sam’s Clubs Smart Home areas, which allow customers to see, feel, and test today’s technology for their home in ‘life like situations’, are still only in a handful of stores. But the way that they unlock the products with relatable situations is just great. So is the sliding screen they used that makes it easy to choose which one to dig into.
- Sportchek, when they launched their flagship experience store in Toronto, really got on the bus for using interactive to amp up the store experience. And it’s good for both shoppers and employees. Both can pick up pretty much any product, swipe its bar code or RFID tag on a sensor and check out prices, info and avails and decide to buy or send it home. No more guessing about the more technical information that plenty of sporting gear now has locked inside.
- Fabletics retail stores created the “omnicart’ by integrating the store fitting room with the online shopping cart. Yep, you read that right. Store associates scan items on an iPad that a shopper is trying on and if they are a Fabletics member, the items show up in their omnichannel shopping cart automagically. They can provide fit feedback and buy then or buy later—Fabletics doesn’t care as long as they end up buying!
- I’d be remiss to not call out the basic touch function of providing endless aisle offerings inside a small format store. As more retailers narrow down SKU selections to hyper focus on the local market needs, making it stupid simple to find what’s not on the shelf and send it home is going to become the standard, clearly Amazon book stores have nailed that one. But as we’ve seen with the Amazon Go store, just because it can be automated, it doesn’t mean it should. People still love having the choice of a nice smiling associate if that’s what they’re looking for. Give them the option!
I could go on and on about this topic, but I hope I’m making the point that there’s no shortage of inspiration for the creative use of touch in today’s retail stores. There’s still plenty of room for experiential imagination, so get touchy—and see what this ever-evolving omnichannel connection point can do for your retail experience!
Photo Credit ComQi
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