Profitable Retail: The Importance of In-Store Technology in Effective Store Design

omnichannel instore experience for profitable retail

The internet is changing the way shoppers shop, but when it comes to the actual point of purchase, the store itself remains the main focal point.

So how does a retailer reconcile these two seemingly conflicting  ideas? 

Stores today must be designed with a different mindset.  They should be designed by combining  understanding of  the shoppers’ path-to-purchase  with in-store technology that solves shoppers’ needs.

Technology is no longer a factor that exists solely outside the store. Shoppers demand in-store technology to complement and assist their shopping experience.

This is one conclusions from a recent report by Wireless Ronin Technologies entitled, “Designing an Effective Omnichannel In-Store Experience.”

Shoppers like technology when shopping – whether to learn about a product, help choose the right product, view inventory availabilities, complete a transaction, or to seek after-sales assistance.  Much of the recent emphasis has been on technology outside the retail store – thus creating some fears that brick ‘n mortar retail spaces will soon be obsolete.

Apple changed a lot of this thinking by actively employing technology in its stores.  Apple stores utilize technology in many ways – to demonstrate products, to explain functions and uses via digital signage,  to check out using tablets.  Technology is fully integrated into the Apple store experience. Results have validated this approach, as Apple consistently has the highest sales per square foot of any retailer.

But how can this approach be used for retailers with less of the ‘WOW’ factor of innovative technology?  In the Wireless Ronin Technologies report, Alan Buterbaugh, Senior Vice President, Content Engineering, provides a roadmap with the following five steps:

1. Design with Technology in Mind

Find a technology that can integrate various functions within the retail environment.  Successful retailers utilize single-platform technologies that allow the retailer to create and effectively manage programs and promotions across multiple channels.

2. Align Technology with Customer Flow

Shoppers shop in certain ways.  Some like to roam and explore.  Others always enter and leave in a certain pattern.  Some seek information.  Others simply get what they need and leave.

Understanding the shopper flow is critical to understanding what technology might be useful.  For example,  a shopper  might want to know about product availability; understand the product in more detail; or view  the store’s layout.  A kiosk located in a key store aisle could provide needed answers in a quick, easy manner.  Digital promotional boards can stimulate sales – much like the low-tech end aisle display in a grocery store – if located in well-traveled store areas.  Touch screen displays can help demonstrate how a product will look in, say, a room or, if apparel or accessories, on a person.

3. Rethink Your Marketing Distribution Point

Marketing is not often considered when  store design is started.  Marketing is considered to deal only with activities separate from  the store – such as print ads, web sites, e-mails.

However, marketing can be viewed differently – as a distribution point for sharing information with fellow shoppers.  Effective use of mobile and social media can turn hundreds and even thousands of shoppers into brand advocates.  This is important, since earned media has higher levels of trust that paid media.

4. Make Your Marketing Personally Relevant

Advanced digital technologies allow the retailer to create a contextual content that has greater personal meaning for customers.  This is particularly true with interactive messages that be adjusted to what the shopper is seeking and how the shopper is interacting with that channel. Today’s technologies allow the retailer to know exactly what items shoppers are viewing, and respond immediately to that need.

5. Leverage the Human Connection

Knowledgeable sales associates and customer service representatives have always provided retailers an advantage.  However, shoppers often come in with more tools and intelligence than store employees.  Retailer need to use technology to equip employees with as much knowledge as their customers.  Items such as tablets can help store employees to answer questions about product availability, promotional offers, pricing, and even checkout.

Retailers continue to gain a better understanding of what true and seamless omnichannel shopping really is.  Expect retailers to find new ways to employ technology for a more satisfying in-store shopping experience.

Click on the following to download a copy of Wireless Ronin Technologies  report, “Designing an Effective Omnichannel In-Store Experience.”

photo credit: Justin in SD via photopin cc