Last week, we looked at how the shopping mall has evolved since its inception in the mid-1950s. The closing of stores by big names like Sears and JC Penny’s is fueling skepticism over the death of the brick-and-mortar store. But like we said last week, the brick-and-mortar store isn’t dying, but actually going through a rebirth. Shopping experiences are being re-imagined for a future that places the consumer at the center of the equation.
Unlike destination shopping, where consumers seek businesses out, businesses are now meeting consumers where they are. Given the impact of online shopping and continuous connectivity due to smartphones, businesses are going to have to go that extra mile to get consumers into stores. Physical stores have to promise experiences that exceed consumer expectations. Such delightful experiences enabled by technology are already in place in some stores.
For instance, the Burberry Beauty Box that was rolled out in their Covent Garden store lets shoppers experience beauty products in a beautiful and tactile-feeling virtual simulation. You can tell by this promotional video how the rich textures and colors make for fun engagement.
For grocery and personal care items that are bought on a more regular basis, South Korea’s first virtual supermarket by the chain Homeplus is taking things to the next level. The interactive storefronts can be installed anywhere from subway stations to bus stops. So if you are on your way to work and you remember that you are running out of milk, all of you have to do is scan the item’s barcode in the virtual store with your Homeplus app and the milk carton will be waiting for you when you get home in the evening. As simple as that.
Now, one might argue that this is not actually a physical store. But that’s exactly the point. The physical store is being re-imagined and being presented to us in a new avatar. This is the embodiment of that concept. Shopping made more convenient and intuitive, meeting consumers where they are and not waiting for the consumer to come to the store.
Speaking of convenience, wouldn’t a magic mirror enhance your dressing room experience? Well, Intel is on it! Their magic mirror lets you create a 3D avatar of yourself through gesture controlled parametric body modeling. So when you are in a store, all you have to do is scan your smartphone, the mirror will recognize who you are and recommend products to you according to your body type and style.
The technology isn’t market-ready yet, but just think of the possibilities! No lines to stand in, no trudging back and forth through with piles of clothes in your hands. Stores would have the option of keeping inventory in stores or having selected items shipped and waiting at the consumer’s doorstep by the time they get home (think drones!).
Hointer is helping businesses execute similar experiences. At the Hointer store in Seattle, clothing items are displayed like in a sample gallery. Shoppers scan the barcodes on the items they want to try on and then find them waiting in the dressing room in their size.
This article on TechCrunch predicts that the low energy Bluetooth market will reach $60 million in the next five years. Macy’s just announced the largest rollout of Beacons to date. They plan to install more than 400 devices across their stores. If this isn’t an indication of the changing times, then what is? When a consumer downloads the Shopkick app, it connects their at-home browsing history and guides them to just the right product in the store.
The future of shopping in the physical store will be contextual and technology-driven. It will happen as part of an inspired and rich shopping experience. And most importantly, it will not be disconnected from a shopper’s online existence. A shoppers’ purchase history, browsing history, social media affinities, etc. will factor into the in-store experience, making it more personalized and targeted. Needless to say, businesses will have to ensure that they provide rich and consistent product information across the infinite channels through which they connect with consumers, whether it’s interactive storefronts, beacons, or shoppable windows.
This will ensure the end of phenomena like webrooming and showrooming as the consumer experience will be a seamless flow of satisfaction and intuitive shopping. At Indix, this is how we envision the future of shopping.