On Listrak’s recent Manhattan Retail Reality Roadtrip, our group visited many stores located in Chelsea, Soho and along 5th Avenue. Even as an avid online shopper, I still love shopping in-store. It provides a totally different experience than online does and allows me to interact better with both the products and the brand. Many of the stores we visited provided an exceptional in-store experience; one of the things that resonated the most was how engaged and attentive the store associates were. The group's primary goal was to check out the latest technology, see how it was being used in brick and mortar locations and how it tied the customer back to the online experience, if at all.

Some brands, like Rebecca Minkoff, really offered an in-store experience that you wanted to savor, quite literally with the drink assortments they offered, but the welcome and engaging nature of the store associates was just as notable. The well-talked about magic mirrors in the store only added to the interaction with the brand and the store associate. The two worked seamlessly together. And as a loyal Rebecca Minkoff customer, I would make the trip to their Soho Flagship store just to test out the new mirror technology in the fitting rooms. They were well lit, working properly, integrated well with the sales associates and overall easy to use. It made the experience fun and unique as a customer.

On a whim, our group decided to visit the Lands End Pop-Up store on 5th Avenue and were pleasantly surprised by how welcoming the sales associates were and how warm and cozy the store was. They even had a hot chocolate bar upstairs with the most amazing peppermint cookies. And while the store experience was one of my favorite of the 20+ stores we visited, all of their iPads weren’t working and the computer hidden in the back corner was also not working. The technology divide between online and in-store was pretty apparent, but did it ruin my experience at the store? Not really.

Sprinkles Cupcakes, who served me the best salted caramel cupcake I’ve ever tasted, allowed me to order a cupcake via their “Cupcake ATM,” but didn’t ask for my email or phone. Personally, after how amazing that cupcake was, I would love to continue the experience with them, but they have no way to contact me. That was a disappointment.

Other stores such as Samsung had a bar of phones set up where you could choose from designs and have it printed on a recyclable shopping bag. Pretty cool, right? But when I went to the phone to enter my info and pick my design, the girl behind the counter just told me to pick a design and she’ll make it – no need to use the phone. While, I appreciated the in-store interaction from the sales associate, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of having the phones to showcase their technology?

After visiting Kate Spade, a store that had no technology present in-store for the customer to utilize, was all about the in-store customer experience. I worked with the Store Manager to pick out a pair of earrings and after requesting an e-receipt, my engagement with Kate Spade has risen quickly as they sent me an email asking me about my Kate Spade New York Shopping Experience as well as multiple promotional emails.

And lastly, I thought Warby Parker was the most fun. Why? Well, because who doesn’t like trying on glasses? From a pure-play startup to a brick and mortar, Warby Parker has created an atmosphere in their Soho store that invites you to try on different styles and even has a photo booth so you can take home your memory of the store.

I think one of the most poignant takeaways for me was that online and in-store shopping each have their own benefits, but creating an experience that is memorable is by far the best thing a brand can do. The stores that nailed that experience were the ones that ironically had a nice crossover of online and in-store technology so that the conversation could be continued after you left the store with or without a purchase in hand. When adding technology in-store, make sure it makes sense and make sure it connects the dots for the customer in a way that is unique and memorable, but also works.

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