Online-only retailers used to be at a disadvantage to bricks and mortar (B&M) stores, as actually trying on clothes has steadfastly remained the preferred shopping experience. But through convenience and familiarity of online shopping, the distinct advantage of physical stores is slowly fading.
Unconstrained by footfall at store locations, online-only retailers, such as ASOS or Thread, have innovated with regular curated deliveries, giving buyers the option to pay only for what they decide to keep. In doing so, online companies have turned their weaknesses into strengths - and as a result are producing more touch points for customer engagement.
This is a key learning for B&M, as they must now ask themselves how they can compete with Amazon, who are expanding their data-led approach into high street stores. How are B&M stores using near future technology to link up their in-store customers with their the online presence? Headstream research advises that great stories trigger purchase intent for 55% of shoppers, and so with that in mind, I’ll expand with a story.
Pulling out a host of tired colours from her wardrobe , Lily realises she is an entirely different person as the first rays of summer brighten her bedroom. A Summer Shopping haul is her only cure. Lily shouts aloud to Alexa: “Alexa, I’m going to need some summer clothes”. What follows is some lively to and fro, as Alexa and Lily discuss shops and outfits based on some on-point observations Alexa has made about current trends, and through having compiled years of Lily’s volatile fashion preferences across all Apps, sites and channels.
A week later, Lily is in town and a Notification reminds her that not only has she got a free schedule for 3 hours right next to her favourite store, she has also been offered some outstanding vouchers which would make her trip very worthwhile indeed. If Lily is like the 54% of users behind Apadami’s 2017 survey, incentives are the main reason she has the app installed on her phone. There remains no better motivator than vouchers to get people into stores, with coupon usage raising an average of 5% every year.
Shopping staff greet Lily by the door to discuss her unique preferences and offer Lily a beaconised basket as she walks into ‘Omni-a-Porter’. Customisation features are expected by Lily, and are woven throughout the store via a comprehensive network of Aruba beacons, on shelves and baskets. These trigger key shopping moments, and for the benefit of the store staff, Lily’s continually improved profile is instantly updated and shared across Omni-a-Porter channels.
As she moves around the shop, the Omni-a-Porter shopping assistant remains in constant contact with Lily while she scans and discusses items in-store, through a multitude of Recommendation systems working upon her profile. The human assistant is only one touchpoint, with an AI assistant filling in the presence gaps. When she dwells by a particular rack for longer than usual, a human shopping assistant comes over and picks up where the algorithmic assistant left off. Lily and the assistant discuss the garment’s fair trade qualifications, as well as whether there are any other sizes in stock. She decides to leave the jeans for now, and keeps looking for the t-shirts for which she has coupons. Omni-a-Porter will be retargeting Lily with the jeans she left behind over the next few weeks, sharing some more tantalising info about them with her.
When Lily finally finds a t-shirt she likes, she scans a barcode, and checks the washing instructions, as she strides towards the fitting room. After putting on the t-shirt, she looks in the mirror. It is as she suspected: green is not her colour. She air swipes through yellow, then red, then purple - each time, her reflection’s colour of the t-shirt appears differently. Lily decides the blue t-shirt is perfect, so she pays for it using a fingerprint on her phone, then shares her emoji-laden mirrored reflection on Instagram. As she walks out of the store, a shop assistant hands her a bag:
Your blue t-shirt, size 12, Lily. Have a nice day!
Data-led Retailers are revolutionising their businesses by starting conversations with their customers at home, leading them to their store, and out the door with a purchase.
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