During the initial months of 2020, retailers dealing with essentials were left with very little time to act and put in measures to safeguard the health of their employees and customers. On the other hand, non-essential retailers were making every possible effort to move from the traditional, physical environment to a digital one. With the arrival of June, e-commerce stores were way ahead of the usual brick and mortar stores with more than 4X sales.
While this pandemic posed many challenges for physical storefronts, technological advances are accelerating the digital transformation of the retail industry. These technologies power the enhancement of customer personalization, physical store shopping, and contactless service.
An interesting fact worth mentioning is that these experiences aren’t just limited to hyper or superstores or high-end retailers; midsize and small stores all need to change their focus and shift toward these next-gen technologies to serve their customers in a better way in the wake of a new normal.
Key Challenges for Brick & Mortar Stores
For retailers, it is critical to understand that the traditional shopping experience is changing, and expecting things and businesses to return to ‘normal’ is futile. Even before this pandemic struck the world, traditional retail stores were already under attack, thanks to e-commerce giants like Amazon.
The pandemic has simply widened the gaps and has made the situation critical for retailers to adjust to market demands. With more and more consumers opting for online shopping, retailers are in no position to be in sit-and-watch mode. For the first time ever, more than a quarter of holiday sales will occur online.
According to Digital Commerce 360, online holiday sales are expected to surge to 43% in 2020.
Retailers looking to bridge the gap need to focus on improving the in-store experience to drive online sales. We’ve seen the emergence of retailers like Bonobos who use physical locations to increase awareness and allow users to try on, and touch and feel the products before purchasing online or through a ship-to-home purchasing model.
On the other hand, larger retailers should be taking a closer look at how consumers navigate their stores and make purchasing decisions. Utilizing the advancement in digital technologies can assist retailers with these changes.
A New, Redefined Baseline: Before anything else, traditional stores have to ensure that their operations comply with the necessary health-and-safety regulations while meeting the basic consumer expectations. This involves maintaining a proper physical distance, mask-wearing, controlling the number of customers in the store, enhancing the speed of service, initiating contactless transactions, and introducing self-service and eCommerce options.
Rethinking In-Person Experience: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, retailers have to ensure that the in-store experience they are providing to their customers is simply extraordinary. In other words, retailers have to give their customers a compelling reason to visit. Only such in-store experience would break the inertia of consumer behavior that they adopted during the early days of the pandemic.
Digital Technology is The Ally in Tough Times
Similar to other industry verticals, digital technology has become the savior of the retail industry as well. Retailers are utilizing many existing technologies to elevate the customer experience while safeguarding the health interests of their employees.
In recent months, Acquire Digital, has released enhanced digital solutions to blend the benefits of physical stores and eCommerce to improve the overall shopping experience. Let’s review the solutions to see how they can benefit the physical store experience.
Shelf-Edge Inventory and Pricing Label Displays: Shelf-Edge dynamic digital pricing label strip displays. Remotely connected to the store’s inventory management system, these digital price tag displays are located on shelves, under every product. These screens provide the ability to display pricing, content tailored towards the product, and advertisements.
Retailors can easily configure shelf displays with engaging content using the Shelf-Edge CMS which provides the ability to design price labels using the label designer tool. and gondolas for manufacturers to manage the number of shelves, width, and much more.
- Improve inventory management controls,
- Remotely update content and pricing,
- ePOP integrations for auto pricing updating,
- Mobile platform for inventory staff to update pricing content,
- Easily manage hundreds of shelf displays remotely.
Endless Aisle Interactive Signage
Endless Aisle is a concept that’s been around for years, but has yet to be perfected. Through the use of interactive digital screens, the solution merges the benefits of e-commerce with traditional, brick, and mortar stores to provide customers with an uber-rich shopping experience.
Innovative touch display technology located throughout the retail environment allows users to access thousands of additional products online if they can’t find exactly what they are looking for in-store.
The key advantage of the endless aisle concept is that customers have a huge product range to select from, quicker services, and easy selection without a customer rep in tow.
- Increased sales conversions and footfalls,
- Decrease in sales loss,
- Increased cross-sell/upsell opportunities,
- Better customer experience with a wider product range,
- Enhanced sales assistance,
- Captures more and better customer insights,
As an add-on to Endless Aisle technologies, Acquire has improved and tailored its classic Wayfinder software to provide an awesome retail store mapping experience.
Retail Wayfinder: As retailers push to help visitors find products quickly and efficiently, Acquire’s Wayfinding and Retail Directory platform provides a 3D mapping experience with highlighted routing and mobile functionality to help visitors find what they are looking for quickly. By integrating the retail Wayfinder with the in-store devices, retailers can easily develop a truly unified customer experience to find product information with ease.
- Better traffic flow with the ability to update and change routes remotely,
- Improved customer efficiency in locating products,
- Integrations to inventory management and planograms for auto-updating,
- Drives online sales for out of stock or larger products,
- Ability to set shopping lists at home and find the best route while in-store.
The intuitive retail mapping can be integrated with the store’s website, on-site digital signage, or a mobile app to help customers find a product within the store. Retailers can include maps on their websites and mobile applications, and can also install QR codes anywhere in the store.
Combining all these solutions together and physical retail can expect to have a leg up on it’s competition. We are already seeing many large retailers go in this direction and Acquire plans to continually improve its solutions to be an industry leader in the space.
As the retail market continues to evolve, Acquire Digital hopes to stay at the forefront of future retail technology aimed at improving the in-store customer experience. I am just testing.