When most people think of a high-tech shopping experience, online shopping comes to mind. For years, the ecommerce shopping experience has evolved to include personalized recommendations based on purchase history, up-to-the-minute inventory trackers, and more advancements that feel like we’re living in the future.
Many in the industry see personalization as a key method to earn the attention of current and potential customers — and to earn consistent sales in the process. Tailoring your offerings and communications enhances the customer experience and demonstrates that you’re in touch with their needs. According to one study, 48% of U.S. marketers reported that personalization on their websites or apps lifted revenues in excess of 10%.
In contrast, much of the brick-and-mortar shopping landscape seems to have stayed pretty much the same. But if you look closely at a few stand-out retailers, in fact, high-tech shopping is driving customers back into stores for personalized shopping trips. Here, we’ll examine some tactics in-person sellers use to execute on a high-quality personalization strategy, and how evolving tech is helping retailers implement more tailored experiences.
The Landscape of Retail
Retail has never been more competitive — and customers have never had more choices. And that’s why more retailers are refusing to stick with the status quo and are evolving their offerings. NBC News reports that: “Innovating to entice customers is not just for novelty; it's a business decision. According to shopping analytics firm Shoppertrak, foot traffic at retail stores was down 57% between 2010 and 2015.”
In this competitive landscape, retailers need to offer an exceptional experience to draw a crowd — enter high-tech shopping. As analytics firm Retail Info Systems states: “When a retailer goes 'high tech' and provides the customer with a unique shopping experience, the customer will likely not forget it. To create lasting impressions, retailers implement interactive devices that engage loyal customers and attract new ones.”
So, what kind of high-tech advancements are retailers currently using? Let’s take a look at some of the available technologies that your retail business could integrate to create a better shopping experience for your customers.
In their exploration of high-tech shopping, NBC News spoke with sustainable fashion line Reformation and their Vice President of Retail Bree Richmond, who said "We wanted to do something very different in the retail space. Something that no one has done before.”
In fact, their San Francisco location is quite unique: “Customers at the new Reformation store can eye clothes on the rack like at a traditional store, but then use touchscreens around the store and in fitting rooms to select the size and color for any item. And, once that digital fitting room is created, a Reformation staffer in the store's basement will literally run the selected items upstairs and hang them from behind-the-scenes in the fitting room's ‘magic’ wardrobe.”
Image Credit: Reformation
This minimalist aesthetic when customers walk in is intentional — it doesn’t overwhelm consumers and allows them to interact with the clothing without having to flip through large racks looking for the correct size. Additionally, the intuitive, digital interface and clothes that arrive almost magically in the changing room help anyone overcome social anxiety that they may have speaking directly with a sales associate.
Augmented reality shopping isn’t limited to in-store installations either. Home Depot developed the Project Color app, which allows users to upload a photo and see what the room would look like with different paint colors on the walls.
As demonstrated,, augmented reality is a useful high-tech tool that allows shoppers to better envision how your products fit into their lives. The more clearly customers can see your products meeting their needs, the more likely they are to make a purchase.
In their reporting, NBC News found retailers that are currenting utilizing interactive technologies, including clothier Rebecca Minkoff of Manhattan, who says "With multiple brands closing stores and brands not making it, I think if you are going into brick and mortar, that now is the time to embrace technology and figure out, 'What do you need to gain an edge on getting your consumer to come in?” Minkoff uses Oak Labs — an interactive mirror provider looking to blur the lines between the in-store experience and online shopping.
Image Credit: Oak Labs
Oak Labs outfits fitting rooms with interactive mirrors, which make personalized recommendations, allows customers to connect with sales associates to request new sizes and ask questions, and even make purchases. Whiles providing your customers with a customized, tailored shopping experience, these interactive mirrors also provide you with valuable customer data to help predict sales and order inventory accordingly.
And the result? “Minkoff says when customers use the high-tech fitting room at her store, they buy on average three times more apparel than in a regular dressing room. And, Oak Labs has found customers spend 59% more if they engage with the Oak Mirror.”
Video displays showing product commercials, express coupon distributors, and digitized prices and product information are just some of the high-tech advancements that you’ve probably seen in aisles and shelves of retailers over the last few years.
These “smart shelves” are digitized and are usually connected to a retailer’s inventory management system. So, when an item runs out of stock, you’re notified to replenish your shelf. Retailers can also use these sensor-powered shelves to collect other engagement data (i.e. what products are and aren’t selling).
The future of smart shelves could include targeted recommendations based on customer data and accounts. TimeTrade reports “The Kroger grocery chain is planning to expand its smart shelves capability in even more customer-specific ways. For instance, today a Kroger in Ohio has shelves that show digitized prices and product information. The next step is to link that information to individual consumers. For shoppers who prefer gluten-free products, the price tags could light up in the aisle where all the gluten-free options are. The company says this will all be done with the customer’s permission.”
With this kind of technology, retailers could make recommendations based on previous purchases, track what items customers remove from shelves, and collect invaluable customer data based on activity over time.
Tailored User Experience
What other kinds of high-tech customer experiences are retailers experimenting with right now? In the article How NRF 2017 changed my thinking on retail trends – a semi-visual tour, Diginomica recounts a feature that footwear brand New Balance that worked as a “visual foot assessment, which gives the store associate instant information on the feet of the prospect, which are then used to recommend the best brand, style, and, in some cases, shoe insert...almost every customer now starts there. Judging by the interest from our tour group, that’s a super engaging way to give folks a fun/informative experience – and a better shoe.”
If the sales associate helping you already knows your shoe size, and can accurately predict your problems and needs when they approach you, are you more likely to try on a pair of shoes to see if they’re correct? Are you more likely to make a purchase? Many of the big retailers are betting on this kind of high-tech personalization to help drive in-store foot traffic and sales.
The Future is Here
High tech shopping isn’t about fancy gizmos and gadgets — sure, high-tech toys certainly help, but they help retailers work toward a greater goal: providing an unparalleled retail experience for your customers and attracting new people into your brick-and-mortar locations.
Have you had any success with upgrading your in-store technology? Let us know in the comments what you think of the future of retail shopping.