“Excite the mind, and the hand will reach for the pocket.” So said Harry Gordon Selfridge, the famous founder of the eponymous London department store – the best in the world by popular vote. His own dedication to creating the best in-store experience for his customers demonstrated the kinds of innovative thinking that has been adopted by modern department stores ever since. Were he alive today, then, the originator of so many of our retail rules of thumb would certainly be making the most of new technologies – technologies which, in 2014, can enhance the retail experience beyond mere bricks & mortar. But with two weeks to go until the dedicated panel discussion on the subject at our NY summit, what exactly are the technologies that top retailers are embracing in a physical context today?
Recent months have seen a host of high and low-end brands placing hot-off-the-press technologies into the physical retail mix. Beacon technology is the one-to-get to know now – otherwise, the first you hear of it might be as a text alert on your next shopping trip. The technology implements imperceptible pieces of hardware around stores that can pinpoint the location of a consumer’s smartphone. This will allow the retailer to send offers and info to your mobile, with localised know-how. For example, if you pause (longingly) in front of some shoes, the store can send you a link to the latest reviews or info on stock levels. Remember Bluetooth? Us neither – but iBeacon works using a low-energy version of it, and shopping-savvy consumers can keep theirs on using their iPhones and Android phones for very little energy. One of the biggest proponents of this in-store technology, is, paradoxically, the oldest luxury, speciality-retail department store chain in the US: Lord & Taylor, whose investment in digital has seen a partnership rolled out with Beacon technology provider Swirl. Their SVP, Ryan Craver, will be sure to explain the company’s getting behind Beacons as he takes part in our panel discussion on November 18th.
What’s more, a truly successful in-store/on-line strategy might mean more than giving customers a truly personalised experience; as start-ups in the field are increasingly realising, the brands need more personalisation, too. That is, as start-ups target store retailers with their solutions for bespoke customer experience, the brands themselves continue to desire complete control and customisation over the shopping experience proposed by an app. Spring, launched in August of this year, is the much-hyped shopping app with a difference: going further than other tried-and-failed apps of the same genre, Spring integrates with retailer’s existing e-commerce systems to allow products to be purchased by users with a single swipe. Everything on Spring is shoppable, and it seamlessly integrates brand’s existing in-store environment into its Pinterest-style lifestyle shots. Co-founder Alan Tisch will be on hand to discuss the case for apps helping old-fashioned bricks & mortar thrive in years to come.
When it comes to implementing retail technologies today – in-store or at-home – the key is to accompany the customer every step of the way. With iBeacons, innovative apps, digitised SKUs (stock keeping units) and more secure payment methods, there have never been so many reasons to innovate.
Reported by Claire Healy