A mere 10 years ago, the majority of us were shopping at traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Flash forward to today, any person with a phone or laptop can buy pretty much anything from the comfort of their own home. Whether it is clothes flown in from overseas or groceries from your local supermarket, even a helicopter from Taobao, you can have your shopping goods delivered straight to your door with a few taps of your device.
This was particularly advantageous during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, some of us probably spent more time browsing online stores than physically going to a mall or clothing shop in the past year *raises hand*.
It’s safe to say that technological innovations have made our shopping experience that much more convenient, and we expect to see new innovations come about and continue to transform our retail spaces in the future. But with that, we can also expect shoppers to become smarter and have higher expectations when it comes to the shopping experience. Therefore, it is absolutely essential that retailers upgrade their existing arsenal of digital tools to optimize the customer experience across your retail space.
Here are a few things to consider:
Retail branding used to be all about everything and anything visual and physical, such as the brick-and-mortar stores, billboard adverts, product packaging and in-store customer service. But nowadays, if you aren’t online, you don’t exist.
Having a website and some social media presence is now the bare minimum for any business for the simple reason that if a potential customer goes looking for you on Google but isn’t able to find anything about you, then they’d probably think you’re not real! It’s not as difficult as you think either. There are tons of options out there when it comes to choose a website depending on your aim – whether it is to make sales or simply have a space to explain your company and product offering. You don’t need to have in-depth website development knowledge either, most website creators now offer templates to choose from so you can get a website up and running in hours!
And if you already have a website but find it too time-consuming to manage, why not consider a web content management system. These software systems are repositories to host, process and present any and all webpage content, metadata and information assets, and are essentially a collaborative space for administrators to author, edit and update all the website’s content.
Now let’s talk about social media. As of 2021, more than half of the world’s population are active internet users, whilst over 3.6 billion of them are already using some form of social media. What’s more, this figure is predicted to reach 4.41 billion in 2025. The growing influence of social media and digital spaces have made having an online brand presence a linchpin for any business in today’s retail industry, whether you’ve been in the game for decades or are just starting out. Simply by setting up a business page on popular social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram offers potential customers an overview of your brand and provides you with a channel to reach them. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make use of the advertising managers available on these platforms to increase your brand’s outreach too.
After you’ve created a beautiful website and established your online presence, it’s time to set up an e-commerce store! The importance of an online retail store has become even more prominent in the last year after the pandemic hit. As a direct result of social-distancing restrictions, many retail businesses have had to shift their focus to developing an e-commerce approach or risk losing out on sales.
Even without the situational push of the pandemic, its capabilities for easy browsing and fast transactions has driven the surge of e-commerce over the last decade. The duality of having a physical store and an online shop has slowly but surely become the new norm for all retail businesses, so having an e-commerce system that is compatible with your point of sale in-store will be your best bet to seamlessly integrate your customer’s shopping experience.
It’s safe to say that it has never been more important, or more difficult, to create a great customer experience. A 2020 HubSpot study found that 93 per cent of customer service professionals agreed that customers today have higher expectations than ever before, up from 88% just last year.
Automatic chatbots and smart customer relationship management are a good start when it comes to successful customer support. Real-time chat rooms allow customer service representatives to speak with customers and resolve issues in a timely, responsive and personal manner.
Imagine buying an electronic item, bringing it home and not being able to figure out how to make it work. Rather than have to travel all the way back to the store, you can simply enter an online customer service chat and have everything sorted out on-the-spot.
At the end of the day, providing a high quality and effective online customer service system is one of the most compelling ways to improve customer interactions and promote customer loyalty, and who wouldn’t want that?
Customer demand is an ever-changing entity. Societal factors like fashion trends or let’s say, a pandemic, are constantly influencing the public’s demand for retail products. Remember the stockpiling craze last year when people all around the world were panic-buying groceries? We’re sure glad that’s over!
Now, with technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is possible for companies to automatically and accurately predict consumption trends and anticipate demand, providing that no other freakish natural disasters come about of course! Product information management software allows businesses to gather, adjust and refine product data all in one platform to generate a clear picture of available inventory for online and in-store sales teams to manage and easily tweak if need be.
By using software to help stay on top of your inventory, retail businesses can lower their chances of overstocking to sustain low warehouse and logistical costs.
So, we’ve talked in-depth about how retail companies are shifting their focus online for faster and more effective shopping processes, but that doesn’t mean physical stores and malls have become obsolete.
If you’re in the retail world, you’ll have definitely heard of the term “User Experience (UX)”, and for good reason. Having recently emerged as its very own industry, UX design aims to induce positive feelings and experiences amongst users when they interact with a product or service. In fact, many retail companies have set up their own UX teams in recent years to better their in-store experience in the hope of attracting more customers and staying competitive.
For instance, augmented reality (AR) technology is used in interactive marketing to create a try-before-you-buy experience. At certain Sephora stores, a multinational beauty retailer, you will find a tablet between shelves of makeup products that acts as an interactive mirror for customers to ‘try on’ each product quickly (and hygienically!).
Similar technologies are being used among fashion retailers. One popular slow fashion brand, Reformation, offers ‘virtual fitting rooms’. When you walk into their store, rather than have four sizes of the same top to browse through, there is only one of each item on the racks. Using tablets provided in-store,customers can simply choose the items they want to try on, walk into the fitting rooms, and boom! The clothes selected on the tablet will ‘magically’ appear in your assigned fitting room. But that’s not all. The fitting rooms are equipped with phone chargers, speakers and lighting adjustment switches.
These ‘concept stores’ are now much more than just a stop for picking up products. Even just the experience of being there have become a marketing gimmick that makes it stand out from competitors and attracts customers to visit.
Moving forward, we expect to see stores steering away from traditional models and opting to utilize more in-store retail technologies, including self-checkout, staff-free and cashier-less systems, voice ordering service, smart robotic staff and more. The possibilities are endless.
While transforming your brick-and-mortar store into an innovative, experience-focused destination equipped with the latest AR technology can make your brand the talk of the town, it’s important to start with the basics, which means creating an accurate and efficacious spatial design.
Luckily, retail space planning software can help to analyze and optimize a retailers’ physical stores according to their location and features. For instance, planning out product displays and adjusting the placements of mirrors and racks for stores of varying sizes to maximize eyeball time. This sort of technology assists retailers to utilize every corner of their space and encourages compelling visual merchandising which can effectively boost your retail sales!
Additionally, spatial management services such as BOOQED’s proprietary software QUBIC can evaluate your retail space and provide solutions to activate any underutilized spots.