How to win the battle for the future of retail

How to win the battle for the future of retail
By Kate Ryrie
Dec 7, 2018
Retailers should blend the best of both online and in-store experiences to get ahead.

The rise of e-commerce has transformed the world of retail. However, as consumers seek convenient, personalized shopping experiences, staying competitive in retail requires more than a responsive online presence or an exceptional in-store interaction.

How do retailers do it? Leading retailers that succeed in bridging the gap between on- and offline shopping know how to seamlessly integrate brand experiences, delivering the best of both worlds at every touchpoint.

Bridge the gap between consumer and product.

Modern consumers demand convenience. They expect the same speed and simplicity they experience in smartphone digital experiences as they do from brick and mortar. Who wouldn’t like their groceries delivered to their doorstep?

Brands like Levi, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein are morphing the in-store experience into e-retail with a ‘true fit’ service – allowing customers to give feedback on the brands, sizes, and fits they usually shop for. This not only supplies online shoppers the same tailored advice they’d receive in-store, but their engagement data provides for more personalized and targeted digital experiences.

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Make the in-store experience memorable.

Physical stores will always create experiences impossible to replicate online, and savvy retailers are capitalizing on this opportunity.

Apple transcends the normal in-store experience by inviting their customers into a store aesthetic unlike others. Its clean, well-curated design puts immense focus on face-to-face interaction, while their infrastructure provides the ability to have a tangible experience with all of their products.

British architecture firm Foster + Partners have a longstanding relationship with Apple, designing their flagship city stores that combine sleek minimalism with local design elements. Infusion of the environment and locality into Apple’s overall brand strategy has positioned them in a league of their own in brick-and-mortar. They even go as far to patent their in-store design layout. Making the experience predictable but stimulating, and memorable for the right reasons are how Apple tackling brick-and-mortar. And right now, they’re doing it quite well.

Use better in-store displays.

Technology plays a prominent role in bringing the convenience of online into the physical store – with tablets and touchscreens heightening flexibility and clarity for shoppers.

Though not always the most adaptive, retailers like IKEA knows in order to take its sales to the digital era and increase their millennial audience they need to embrace new technologies.

Unifying online and offline experiences, IKEA uses LCD screens to illustrate larger product features, and provides touchscreens for customization, visual shopping bags, and assembly booking. They’re also embracing third party e-commerce and new technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) by partnering with Apple.

Beauty/cosmetic retailers such as Lush are upping their technology chops as well, and migrating 17 different website to create a new tablet till system. This in-house point of sale system provides a range of payment options that allow for faster transactions, more space for product displays, and a streamlined in store purchase process.

Express your voice on social media.

Increasingly, more retailer transactions are occurring through social media. But for many businesses, it’s an area of potential many fail to tap into. One post a day isn’t enough anymore: the most innovative brands are extending their reach, capitalizing on the appeal of global influencers, and increasing their audience and relevance through Instagram and Snapchat.

Today, social isn’t just a series of channels – it’s the foundation of modern brands.

Creating impact requires seamless integration of every physical and digital channel. This means crafting an experience with a distinctive tone of voice, regular updates, and genuine influence on the real world.

“Brands opening up their shows to influencers gives that behind the scenes, real view of the events. If a designer can captivate the influencers they invite and they spread this to their communities, the people in front of phone screens can join that brand’s community.” -- Emily Hunt, Lifestyle blogger

Abloh Virgil’s first show for Louis Vuitton was the perfect example of this, creating a surge of social media activity by offering catwalk items directly to customers, and resulting in shoppers posting garments straight to their feeds.

To get a more real-life picture, we asked some of our own staff--50 percent male, 50 percent female, aged between 18 and 34--about their shopping preferences, finding that most would rather shop online for convenience and value.

Key reasons for their choices? Better prices, next-day-delivery, discount codes, and easy access to reviews. For big shoppers, it was the hands-on experience of trying on clothes that had them.

“Brands will continue to prioritize user experience, designing every single consumer-brand interaction with the user’s needs in mind both on and offline. We will see brands using their customers’ data more effectively to create even more personalized experiences from site to store.” -- Timothy Holloway, Creative Director at Graff Diamond

Build a seamless tech-forward experience.

Developing technologies such as augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and voice recognition are helping brands personalize experiences by providing a wealth of consumer data to increase responsiveness and memorability.

The battle for the future of retail is set to continue. With online and physical experience both crucial to keeping consumers engaged, the greatest potential lies in creating joined experiences. Brands that take their customers on seamless journeys through digital and in-store worlds will be the real winners.

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Meet the author
  1. Kate Ryrie, Senior Copywriter, Marketing and Engagement