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It’s hard to imagine reading about the future of retail without seeing the word ‘digital’. Much of the commentary on the store of the future is centred around digital transformation — the idea that retailers need to ‘adapt or die’ as they face increasing pressures from e-commerce.
It’s clear that the future of in-store retail is digital. But what does this actually mean? As part of Mercaux’s store of the future report, we surveyed senior executives working in retail to find out more.
So, what exactly should we expect from the digital store of the future?
Unsurprisingly, 87% of retailers believe that customer expectations will become more important when defining the store experience in the future. In a digital age of social media, e-commerce and instant gratification, customer expectations are ever increasing.
Whether consumers demand an efficient service to fit in with their busy lifestyles, or they are looking for a personalised, curated retail experience, technology is key. 85% of customers expect click and collect today, while cutting-edge technologies like interactive screens and augmented reality are a future expectation for 76% and 84% of customers.
By putting the customer first, retailers benefit from increased customer lifetime value and brand loyalty. Yet only a fifth of retailers report that they are capable of reacting to shifting customer expectations quickly. Many need to invest in basic tech functionalities – like click and collect – before they can move on to experimenting with more advanced in-store technology such as augmented reality or touchscreen mirrors.
Earlier this year, Retail Assist conducted a survey between Gen X, Y and Z, and found that the vast majority of people are using smartphones as an extension of their everyday lives: with this in mind, it’s needless to say that shopping habits have evolved to follow suit. Stores are continuously competing for their shoppers’ attention against smartphones, which offer a distracting stream of inspiration and rich content.
So, when 40% of retailers say that their employees don’t have enough product information to effectively make a sale, how can store staff keep pace with the endless amount of information available online?
The challenge lies in empowering sales associates with product information and content like branded digital lookbooks, marketing videos and social media content that they can use to inspire shoppers and tell a story about the brand. This challenge presents an opportunity to increase dwell time, build the customer relationship and help store staff to feel more empowered, to take ownership and to therefore achieve greater job satisfaction.
The role of the store is shifting. 80% of retailers said that the most important purpose for the store today is a place for people to purchase products. When you look forward five years, however, the same number of retailers expect the main purpose of stores to shift towards being experience and discovery centres.
The modern shopper is channel agnostic. With this comes a need to create rich and consistent experiences across every touchpoint, whether that means browsing in-store and shopping online later or accessing online wish lists and order history in-store. Modern shoppers demand – and, indeed, expect – a seamless end-to-end purchasing experience.
Allowing customers to shop in the way that suits them, whether online or offline, has obvious benefits, like increased sales and conversion. But retailers need to make sure they have the technology in place to give their stores credit where it’s due, even where a customer discovers a product in-store and purchases it a few days later on their tablet at home.
In a digital store, it’s vital to ensure that employees have the IT support that they need. Whether that’s having thorough Help Desk store support provision, a central view of all stock to allow customers to shop beyond the channel or utilising Mercaux’s platform to combine a store’s digital and physical store estates to ensure that customers have a seamless shopping journey across all channels. Retail Assist have partnered with Mercaux to enable retailers to realise their omnichannel capabilities, no matter how they choose to shop.