The Convergence of Digital and Physical Shopping Experiences

February 3, 2017 Ryan Moats

Historically, brick-and-mortar retailers have approached development of their online storefronts fatalistically. Companies thought that increasing online business couldn’t happen without poaching from brick-and-mortar storefronts—and if anyone was going to poach brick-and-motor business, it might as well be that same company’s online business. Online and bricks-and-mortar retail were treated as two separate animals. To grow online business, many companies thought they had no choice but to sacrifice bricks-and-mortar sales. All advances in online functionality for customers meant directing those customers away from brick-and-mortar locations.

Then, last year, True Religion changed the retail game by tying its latest tech innovation directly to its brick-and-mortar storefronts.

True Religion Brings Digital In-Store

The future of retail is the convergence of the physical and digital shopping experience. Retailers can use technology to enhance the in-store experience, essentially creating a new experience every time a shopper walks into a store.

Picture this: a customer walks into a True Religion store in London. The ground floor features men’s apparel, with women’s and children’s one level below. There is a “denim bar” designed to showcase product and spark conversation. Five digital screens on the ground floor run True Religion advertising campaigns—a sort of “Digital Runway.”

True religion digital runways show convergence of digital and physical shopping
Digital runway screens are visible from outside a True Religion store. Image credit: fashionunited.uk

With Band for True Religion, a customer using the True Religion app transmits data to associates’ Apple Watches the instant she steps in the door. Sales associates can use the technology to offer informed purchase recommendations. The Apple Watch app will even sync to the company’s inventory system so that sales associates can stay on top of what is in stock and access products from other stores around the globe.

true religion apple watch app aids in Convergence of digital and physical shopping
True Religion “Band” App for Apple Watch. Image Credit: sprinklr.com.

One challenge retailers face is providing consumers with a shopping experience that is relevant—a place that means something and provides an enjoyable experience every time they walk into the store. Band by True Religion not only streamlines shopping, it also allows the sales associate to impress the customer, using technology to heighten the retail experience.

To compete with online retailers, brick-and-mortar retail locations should implement a series of digital advancements with the intent of providing each shopper with a more personalized experience.

Focus on In-the-Moment Experiences

The goal for retailers should not be to just acquire purchase behavior after the fact, but to predict the emotions that drive consumers to buy—or not buy. Retailers can use digital queues to analyze the behavior of non-purchasers, for example, identifying emotions that drive product choices while providing a more immersive and intimate shopping experience. A new Store Non-Purchaser product from ForeSee does just that, identifying digital shoppers and surveying them to determine why they chose not to make a purchase. A retailer can use that information to make changes to not only its online storefront, but also its brick-and-mortar storefront.

Combining physical and digital is an opportunity to add a layer of unexpected experiences and services to the traditional shopping experience. FaceCake Marketing Technologies recently debuted a new platform that allows customers to virtually try on a look. Obviously, this technology can heighten the at-home online shopping experience, giving the consumer access to a wide range of options—but it could revolutionize the brick-and-mortar experience too.

Imagine those True Religion Digital Runways—but instead of a model showing off the latest True Religion jeans, a sales associate can show a hesitant customer an image of herself wearing a pair of jeans she discarded on her way to the fitting room. Alternately, in-store video screens could use customer purchase history data to surprise a retail buyer by showing her new products that would look great with something she recently purchased. Combine the entertainment factor of virtual-try-on with the instant gratification of the jeans in questions being a few feet away in a brick-and-mortar store, and you have a retail win.

The times of trying to accommodate the general consumer are over. Retailers can now use data to make informed communications with specific individuals, rather than general solicitations that will be ignored. Starbucks’ mobile app not only allows consumers the opportunity to skip the line, its hyper-personalized loyalty program allows the coffee giant to personalize a customer’s experience no matter what brick-and-mortar store he walks into.

The objective should not only be to improve the buyer’s journey, but also to reinforce brand values. Retailers must promote a unique point of view in order to generate loyalty. REI’s now-famous Black Friday boycott, coupled with the retailer’s #OptOutside social media campaign, cemented the brand as one that respects its employees and values the outdoors.

Online + In-Store: Better Together

The role of stores is changing. Rather than treating online business like an alternative to a physical storefront, retailers need to integrate the two experiences. Customers are looking for brands that converge their digital and physical touchpoints into a singular, seamless shopping experience. By taking a cue from businesses like True Religion, retailers can use digital experiences to enhance the shopping experience at brick-and-mortar locations. The convergence of digital and physical shopping means retailers can provide consumers an enhanced journey to buy what they want when they want, and how they want it.

Brick and mortar retailers can still compete with online retailers by meeting unmet shopper needs. They can implement digital experiences within the added bonus of instant gratification. The in-store shopping experience provides a unique experience that cannot be replicated by online competitors.

Check out more ways in which physical stores have advantages over online establishments in Retailers: What You Need to Know to Win Against All-Powerful Amazon.

About the Author

Ryan Moats

Ryan Moats, Consumer and Retail Segment Manager, has over 12 years of connecting people and brands within the retail and consumer brands industries. He is responsible for planning, development and implementation of marketing strategies, marketing communications and customer journey activities designed to increase sales and brand awareness for clients in these industries.

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