As our world continues to become more digital and technology-based, how are physical stores keeping up? More people are opting to purchase items online and having them delivered right to their door -- which is great for companies who embrace eCommerce.

But what about the in-store shopping experience? Are retailers just to close shop and start selling solely online?

The answer is no. Physical stores still hold the title for the highest number of sales, coming in around 90%. That being said, retailers need to stay ahead of trends in their industries and find ways to bring technology and innovative in-store shopping experiences to their customers.

The In-Store Technology Experiment

1 City, 2 Days, 16 people, 32 Stores.

I spent the last two days living out every fashion and retail-lovers dream --shopping in New York City. I went on this shopping trip with 15 Listrak colleagues, including members of our executive team, account managers, developers, and other marketing team members. Our goal was to try out the technology and in-store experiences many flagship stores are beginning to offer to create a fully integrated physical and digital experience in order to gain first-hand knowledge.

Our findings proved to us that technology advancements aren’t just happening in the digital world. Many retailers are embracing the in-store experience are becoming more advanced in implementing new innovative technology. Some of thedifferent types of technology we saw included magic mirrors, holograms, virtual reality, iBeacons, touchscreens – and there was even robotic luggage storage in our hotel.

You heard us -- robotic luggage storage! This is one of our team members by the revolutionary technology. Is this something we’ll see widely adopted in the hotel industry the years to come? Only time will tell.

In our multiple part series, we’ll cover more details about this trip and provide in-depth reviews of the retailers we visited and the experiences we had. But to start off, here are some of the coolest and most exciting things we found along the way.  

Fitting Room Upgrades to Magic Mirrors

If you haven’t had the chance to experience  a magic mirror yet, you’ll want to plan a trip to Polo Ralph Lauren on 5th Ave or the Rebecca Minkoff store in Soho.

This is truly the future of retail as they not only enhanced the shopping experience by making it both faster and easier for shoppers to find what they want and checkout but it ties in both mobile and email acquisition points as well.

Magic mirrors can turn your typical in-store shopping experience into an almost entirely digital one. You can connect with a store associate to ask for a different color or size, see what the outfit looks like in a different light and even add items to your checkout list. All of this can be done from the mirror in your fitting room.

The mirrors seem to give employees the opportunity to really interact with customers on a more personal level. In both stores, this technology allowed the staff to communicate with me throughout the entire process and provide items I needed without leaving the dressing room. Making this shopping experience one of the best I’ve ever had.

Here’s where it all happens! This is what the magic mirror is all about. It lets the customer communicate with store employees, request items, change lighting, and so much more! Imagine walking into a dressing room and seeing this waiting for you. It really felt like I stepped into the future.

Store-Wide Touchscreens

Another useful shopping tool available in many of the stores were touchscreens and iPads that let you explore merchandise, read product reviews and interact digitally. The possibilities when it comes to interactive content on touchscreens is nearly endless.

Here are just a few different ways that touchscreens can improve a shopper’s experience:

  • A central location to learn about products in your store
  • Store layout or maps to help visitors find what they are looking for easily
  • Helping customers check prices, stock levels, or request help
  • Interactive games or activities that include your products
  • Product customization stations

The best ones to improve conversion rates included a call-to-action to let the shopper sign up for text or email messages. This transitions the experience from in-store to digital and becomes a fully integrated campaign.

Think of it this way, you’ve taken an in-store customer, who may be new to your store or a returning customer, and gave them a personal and unique experience. They chose to engage with the touchscreen program and opted to provide their contact information -- that’s marketing gold. But you don’t want to just lose sight of that lead.

Now that you have your customer’s contact information, you can begin to serve them digital content that can be targeted based on the action they took in the store. Send them product updates, in-store and online sales, event promotions, and whatever else might fit the persona of the contact.

That simple touchscreen application seems a lot more effective now, huh?

Interactive Touchscreen Examples

During our New York City shopping tour, we saw a few different touchscreen technologies in use. Here are two different digital experiences from New Balance that stood out from the others and provided a unique user experience.

The first let shoppers customize their own sneakers. This was a very unique experience and really let people create their own shopping experience. Once they created their own sneaker, they were able to send the creation to their email -- of course by opting into New Balance’s email list to do so.

After someone creates their own shoe, New Balance has a ton of information. They know the style of shoe they prefer, the designs they like, and so much more. This is a great way to use technology in-store to build an online relationship as well.

Here we are creating our own sneaker. It really was an awesome interactive experience that let us add a little touch of personality to our shoes.

The second interactive touchscreen scanned customer’s feet in order to help them find the best fitting sneakers while allowing customers to email themselves the results.

Once again, they are collecting the customer’s contact information by allowing them to email the results to themselves AND learning about the customer. They now know what shoes are the best fitting for this customer and can begin to market those shoe to them. If a foot-reading machine told you what shoes fit your feet best, you’d believe it too -- wouldn’t you?

Learning what shoes fit best! This was another really cool technology that New Balance had in their store. We tried the shoes on after and it really did know what shoes felt comfortable on our feet!

Personalized Experiences With In-Store Cameras

Warby Parker has its famous photo booth in-store, which provided a lot of fun for the shoppers as well as an acquisition point for the retailer. But that wasn’t the only camera we experienced.

Sephora jumped on the live camera action to teach us how to apply contouring makeup. This in-store technology took a photo and then emailed directions on how to best apply contouring makeup to your specific face.

Now, I don’t know about you, but contouring looks like magic to me -- so I was sold! In the process, Sephora, just like New Balance, collected my email address and now knows I am interested in learning how to contour. I basically gave them the perfect ingredients to sell me their products.

Here’s what my contouring play-by-play looks like. They used a photo of myself and showed me exactly where I should be applying my makeup for the perfect contoured look. Now the question is -- can I actually make it work?

Another place that cameras were used was at the Lego store. They added a cool hologram to the screen when you held up a product in front of it. The hologram was animated and provided a lot of fun for the shoppers, but it lacked an acquisition point or additional product information. It was strictly for fun and it really did enhance the shopping experience!

Although this was a mainly an in-store experience and may not have connected to a fully integrated campaign, it left an impress -- and sometimes that’s all you need.

Here’s what we saw at the Lego store. This campaign was more than likely designed to promote Star Wars rather than gain new contact for Lego, but it was still really cool to see the Lego set come to life.

Full Mobile Integration

We made sure to download each retailer’s app before our shopping trip and the outcome was mixed as connectivity was an issue.

One outstanding example was Urban Outfitters where we received a push notification as we were checking out their vinyl. They did a great job at tracking and knowing what we were doing in their store. Realizing that we may have been looking for something outside of what they carried in the store, they offered us additional options via their online shopping experience.

This is what came up on our app when looking at the vinyl options in-store. It leads to an online shopping experience that offered even more of a music selection.

However, at other locations we tried scanning merchandise to learn more about the products just to be told the products weren’t in stock or we’d just be taken to the product page of the retailer’s site. This is a huge missed opportunity for reltailors in the mobile age.

Key Takeaways of In-Store Technology

Retailers, don’t add technology just for the sake of technology. If it doesn’t enhance the shopping experience, don’t bother. Technology that takes away from a buyer’s experience is worthless.

However, technology that helps customers connect with you in new ways while helping them explore new products and leading to a faster checkout is definitely worth the investment.Finding ways to bring the digital world into the traditional shopping experience it the way of the future, and can prove to have positive conversion rates. Take advantage of fully integrated campaigns and bring people in from both worlds.

The shopper journey is all about engaging customers in multiple channels and making the experience seamless as shoppers move from the store to your site to their email or mobile device. The channels should not only support each other - think using email to drive traffic to your stores or acquiring email subscribers and mobile numbers in store - but they should all work together to help the customer find and purchase merchandise no matter where they're shopping.

Keep an eye out for more on this topic as this series continues. In the meantime, leave us a commont about technology you’ve seen that brought in the in-store experiece together with digital.

Reach your customers in every stage of the cycle.

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