4 Tech-Savvy Ways to Boost Retail Mojo
The evolution of design for traditional brick-and-mortar stores in response to the rise of online and mobile sales is one of the most fascinating effects of the shift in consumer trends.
Retailers—and, inevitably, developers—are beginning to recognize that they will need to update everything from the architecture, to the functionality and flow, to the very experience of in-store shopping to reflect the realities of a world where younger, tech-savvy shoppers have options and expect more from their brick-and-mortar shopping experience.
As many of even the most traditional brick-and-mortar brands begin to embrace and expand their online presence, one trend we’re likely to see is a reduction in store size focusing on individual brands and the brand experience. These brand focused stores will not only see smaller physical footprints, but more specialization, and limited in-store stock. The classic example is the Apple Store, which keeps comparatively few products on hand. The physical presence is more about a way to connect with shoppers and provide a physical manifestation of the brand. Going forward, we can expect to see more of this “showrooming,” where shoppers can try on clothes or handle a product in the store, and then order/pay on-site and have the product shipped to their home. We may even see this dynamic on a development level, with a single fulfillment center or “integrated warehouse” packaging up purchases that can be picked up at the end of a trip to the mall. An omnichannel approach to sales that provides shoppers with a seamless experience whether they are shopping online or in a brick-and-mortar store will become more and more prevalent and necessary.
Supplementing Shopping with Augmented Reality
Technology (and the infrastructure to support it) is going to continue to become a bigger and more important part of brick-and-mortar retail design and operation. Augmented reality apps are already available that can show what a piece of furniture would look like in your house, or what a certain paint color would look like on your walls. We’ll likely be seeing “smart” dressing rooms, like discussed in this Bloomberg article, with screens that can make suggestions for other colors, similar styles, and complementary pieces—and also show what you’d look like in those items. This allows for cross-selling and shopper convenience, and also allows retailers to develop partnerships and cross-sell between brands (Amazon-style suggestion algorithms manifested into the real world).
Another way we’ll see more tech integrated into brick-and-mortar spaces is at the point of sale, with fewer traditional cashiers. In this model, any associate can process your transaction, without waiting in line. We will also likely see some self-directed checkouts—with touchscreen kiosks where shoppers can access a broader product selection and complete the transaction—and smart cashiers, like the Amazon Go store that opened last week, discussed here in USA today, that uses cameras and other tech to track selections and bill automatically without the need to stand in line and check out..
Today's retailers are challenged to create great experiences and develop defining brands in order to attract today's consumer. They are having to refine their chain of product delivery to satisfy customers whose expectations have been changed by Amazon and two day, free shipping. Perhaps most important of all is brick and mortar stores’ highlighting their niche; the ability to provide service, and their differentiation in the world of consumer buying. The consumer experience is central. Everything about design should be driven first and foremost by what makes things easier and enhance the shopping experience. Maybe that’s parking systems that allow consumers to easily identify or reserve spaces. Maybe that’s a program that reduces wait times by making a reservation at restaurants, or even a comprehensive concierge service or personal shopping assistant that bring an old-school department store service mentality to today’s retail centers.
In an industry evolved through futuristic technology, it is the simplicity of an experience and the the way it makes a shopper feel that will be reason brick and mortars will continue to thrive.
by KURT BERES
Kurt is a talented lighting designer with a flare for details. His favorite restaurant is Mad Mex, and he is a dedicated Cleveland Browns fan.