Traditional brick and mortar retailers have felt the threat coming from e-commerce and digital experience for years now.
But digital investments in both in-store and online represent the most strategic and critical areas of growth for leading retailers.
The blurring line between online and offline experiences continues to get fuzzier as both sides borrow tactics from the other. Large online pure-players, including Amazon, are opening physical stores in pursuit of the perfect offline shopping experience while at the same time optimizing their hybrid unified commerce capabilities. Retailers, in acknowledgement of the competitive landscape, are expanding the digital experiences they offer as a core strategy to lure, engage and transact with their customers.
The evolving trends in how digital experiences support and enhance today's consumer engagement affect both traditional retail and online e-commerce pure-play. And for today’s CMO and digital content management professional, more digital experiences means more digital content management and delivery.
Adding Digital to In-Store Experiences
The trend towards digital enhancements in the analog in-store shopping experience shows no sign of abatement. Given the growth and proliferation, marketers must be prepared with the content and media assets needed to support these retail experiences or be overshadowed by the brands that do.
With innovation ramping up every season, here are a few examples of digital commerce experiences being aligned to retail:
Early stage digital presentation of lifestyle and merchandise allows retailers to change themes, seasons and context without costly printing or printing. Having the context of neutral back-drops with vibrant and interactive screens sets the stage of increasingly dynamic digital presentation going forward.
Segmented and Personalized Merchandising
With the fluidity of a digital screen, retailers can now adjust that presentation based on who is standing nearby. The content can range from general segments aimed at time-of day or week shoppers to general demographic reading through facial recognition, all the way to explicit personalization based on wireless or mobile app ‘opt-in’ profiling that taps into a more developed individual shopper profile.
In all cases, online personalization will cross the border to offline, following shoppers into the aisles of retail stores. Customers are also engaging in a variety of in-store social and promotional programs via mobile devices, continuing to break down the walls between online and off.
Interactive Digital Merchandising
Sophisticated digital experiences are also being driven from customer interactions with RFID embedded products, touch-screens and virtual reality rendering. Retailers have increasingly adopted RFID reading devices, which generate interactive display and comparisons based on consumer triggered events.
More recently, stores like Lowe’s have incorporated virtual reality in-store to transport customers outside the store environment and back into their own kitchen. Customers select components and appliances for a remodeling project or explore available options for a new deck or grill through the virtual demo. Only brands who participate in the virtual reality program would be presentable through this new medium.
Looking at a Digital Retail Future
Given the cost and complexity of the technology required to drive these digital experiences, it may be years before it becomes mainstream, but leading retailers are recognizing the role of state-of-the-art digital experiences to lure and engage consumers and to drive purchasing decisions and commitments.
As digital expectations and engagements become more and more ubiquitous with each generation of consumer, it only stands to reason that those retailers that listen to their market will continue to innovate and support customer's purchasing journey with intuitive and engaging experiences that bring enthusiasm and excitement into the buying and shopping process. For now and the foreseeable future, those experiences will be increasingly digital.