Put digital in your physical
With high street shops often losing out to online business, retail establishments are having to work harder than ever to entice their customers back to stores.
But with some clever thinking and the introduction of new digital technology, it may be easier than you think to get the consumers through the doors.
With digital technology aplenty, we take a look at some of the revolutionary ideas at the forefront of the fashion retail industry.
The power of stock digitization
Tracking items from arrival in store to the point of purchase can now be plain sailing thanks to RFID tags. RFID tags are much more advanced than standard barcodes. They contain a similar technology to the electronic article surveillance tags that are often found attached to high-value items in retail outlets. Their functionality allows for each product to have a serial number that can be scanned from greater distances than traditional barcodes.
Even though the RFID technology itself is decades old, only recently has the cost decreased. As a result, it is becoming more affordable for fashion retail stock to be digitalised. The new RFID tags are smaller and more cost-effective but can do so much more than the older technology. Consequently, stores can efficiently track an item from the minute it comes into the store to the minute it leaves. Furthermore, they can also now change item prices at the touch of a button; just like online markets do already.
Beacon sensor placement
Some major brands have already started placing small beacon sensors around their stores. These are low-cost, low-power, location-based devices. They connect via Bluetooth with tablets and phones. This technology ultimately allows connection with shoppers’ smartphones. Retailers can benefit by capturing significant data about customer dynamics – such as the amount of time spent in store, spending habits and the types of products those consumers have viewed online.
Customers benefit too by receiving personalised product highlights, shopping reminders and item suggestions as they walk around the store. This bespoke service is based on, individual customer requirements. And the more personalised the service, the more likely shoppers are to interact with it. The possibilities are almost endless!
Dual-purpose facial recognition
This technology, similar to the beacon sensors, can zone in on shoppers to provide useful information to the retailer. Retailers can learn which displays have been perused the most, where customers spend their thinking time and can monitor the flow of shoppers throughout the store. Interestingly, however, the technology is the same as that used to prevent shoplifting offences. So while you may be killing two birds with one stone, some customers may not be keen on being so detectable!
Installation of smart mirrors
Super-advanced mirrors have already been deployed by several leading brands. Offering varying options of augmented reality, some will cleverly take a photo of a customer in an outfit. It can then compare different looks, side by side, without the need for the individual to change back and forth between outfits. The intelligent technology can show such comparisons from varying views – front, side and back – with no effort on the customer’s part.
Other smart mirrors will project images of selected items directly on to the ‘reflection’ of the customer, meaning they don’t have to get changed at all.
And the technology doesn’t stop there; the mirrors can offer even more to the consumer. They can scan tags and allow shoppers to make contact with in-store assistants. Additionally, they can ingeniously provide further outfit and accessory recommendations, and even change the lighting to show what chosen pieces could look like in different environments.
With research showing that 71% of customers purchase something they have taken into a fitting room, retailers really shouldn’t miss out on the powers of the fitting room. Technology introduced to this strategic area of a store cannot fail to boost sales.
Before too long, gone may be the days of following a conventional customer protocol – browse, choose, pay and leave. Using an app-based solution, technology will track a customer around the store, electronically noting all items picked up and added to the digital trolley. The customer can then leave the store and be charged automatically for the goods taken. This has already been developed and tested by Amazon’s concept store – Amazon Go.
Room-scale virtual reality and light technology
Some stores are already experimenting with room-scale virtual reality. Customers can step into a room for an all-encompassing experience. Offering the opportunity to watch fashion shows, demonstrations and browsing catalogues in a multi-dimensional manner will be an attractive draw for many. Swiping left and right on a smartphone will seem archaic in comparison!
And headway has been made with light technology. This functionality will see the transformation of any 2D or 3D surface into an interactive touch screen – by the power of light itself. The surfaces can mimic the look of a product; virtually appearing via the transmission of light only. A brilliant customer experience to visualise whatever product they want to see at a touch of a button.
And from a retailer’s point of view, visuals of a product – rather than the item itself – can negate the need for any costly security personnel surveillance.
Letting ‘online’ work for stores
There’s no denying that consumers love shopping online. And the choice of store pick-up as a delivery option can work to the retailer’s advantage. By offering delivery to store free of charge or cheaper than home delivery, customers are drawn in to collect from their most conveniently-located store. That gives stores the chance to showcase all of their new technology while the customer is collecting their online purchase; not forgetting the opportunities of additional point of purchase (POP) sales.
Robotic assistants; hit or miss?
Finally, some retailers have tried introducing robotic assistants to their stores. Designed to do anything from handing out coupons to answering questions some are even programmed to anticipate the needs of a shopper dependent on the sign they are looking at. It may be pretty sci-fi, but some will appreciate robotic assistants – but perhaps not all!
For the high street to play ‘catch up’ with its online counterparts, it is crucial that the embracing of advanced technology takes place. And emerging technology, such as augmented reality, tops the list of retail predictions for this year.
Some ideas may seem futuristic and far-fetched, but in a world where people want more and more from everyday life, it is vital to improve the in-store experience for shoppers.