If you’re looking for innovation, look no further than the retail business.
In an industry that continues to experience massive disruption, retailers are turning to new technologies to better engage customers and compete in an extremely crowded market. This includes incorporating high-tech consumer experiences — like augmented reality (AR) shopping, Internet of Things (IoT) analytics, and special app features — with old-fashioned brick-and-mortar touchpoints to create a connected brand experience.
Here are a few examples:
Sephora’s “Virtual Artist” app uses AR to let customers try on different makeup in-store, at home or anywhere. And MAC Cosmetics launched an in-store AR mirror that mimics real-life application by a makeup artist. Both brands have found ways to add real utility to the offline retail experience by incorporating digital interactions, driving increased sales as a result.
In similar fashion, retailer Rebecca Minkoff brings the best of the online buying experience in-store by adding interactive mirrors to their dressing rooms, including adjustable lighting based on where a customer plans to wear the garments, and the option for anonymous checkout — just like the company’s website. In fact, the brand is so convinced that the online customer experience leads directly to offline sales (and vice versa) that they now give sales reps commission for online purchases made within six months of visiting the store. How’s it going? The company reported triple-digit growth in 2017. You can hear more directly from Co-Founder Rebecca Minkoff in this Bloomberg video.
On the IoT front, innovative retailers are tracking in-store customer behavior with devices that feature “aisle-analytics” (infrared sensors that can track movement) and facial recognition, which can compile data on customer demographics, window conversation, footfall patterns, dwell time, repeat customers, and more. This anonymous data provides powerful insights on which promotions, store layouts, and merchandise drive the best results.
One of the longstanding challenges of brick-and-mortar retail is understanding which online promotions and incentives are bringing customers through the door. One brand that is successfully connecting the dots is Nike. By analyzing customer data, Nike discovered that their “superfans” (Nike+ loyalty program members and SNKRS app users) spend nearly triple what average Nike.com shoppers do. Powered by this insight, Nike’s leadership focused on new digital experiences to engage with these super-customers, both online and offline. For example: when an app user enters a Nike store, the store recognizes them and shows them products tailored to their preferences on the app. From there, they can reserve products to try on, and even check out and pay through the app — without having to wait in a line. This is a prime example of using customer data and digital engagement to add value to the in-store experience.
The key takeaway? Online shopping has changed what customers expect from retailers. Brick-and-mortar touchpoints can still be a powerful tool for brands to engage with customers, but it’s a connected experience that offers something better than traditional retail, while adding value where online shopping cannot, that sets brands apart. As shown by these examples, using new technologies like IoT and AR are helping brands innovate, opening up new opportunities to engage customers and sell products.