So often we see brands and retailers announcing that they’ve revamped their stores with a ‘store of the future’ concept, that is completely set to revolutionize retail with a swathe of new technologies.
Yet when you look a little closer, these innovations are not quite the groundbreaking experience they were built up to be, and often end up being digital integration of the simplest form. iPads everywhere, a digitized mannequin and the ground breaking idea of repurposing traditional media into a digitized version of its previous self. They can sometimes be a bit of a let down.
That’s because digital is not always the best way to go when looking to innovate. Creating digital guides for shoppers to read at shelf about where their eggs were sourced, or creating an app for them around their toilet cleaner can appear to be engaging, meaningful brand experiences but actually this effort is often forgotten, with little interest from shoppers and wasted budget for brands.
Yet, while digital isn’t always the right choice, there really is a place for digital in retail and it is going to be there in the future. The key though is not simply replacing one experience with another; it’s about using digital to actually enhance and improve the retail experience for shoppers. Hardly groundbreaking we know, but it is amazing the amount of ‘innovation’ we see everyday that we think, what’s that going to do for their shopper? How are you making shopping easier/simpler/faster/more engaging/different? and fundamentally, who cares?
So when for example, Nieman Marcus introduced an app a while back that gave complete access to both their tablet carrying store assistants and their mobile carrying shoppers, the benefits for both were impressive. Their shoppers were instantly able to check whether a particular product was in stock, and order it online if it wasn’t, while their staff were able to see a shoppers purchase history and therefore make relevant recommendations. An enhanced store experience.
Again, taking an example such as Uniqlo and their magic mirrors that allow shoppers to swipe between different colour choices without having to physically change what they have on, we can see an experience that is enhanced through digital tech.
The future of digital retail (or d-tail) is strong, the challenge now for marketers and brands is to ensure their disruptive digital activations actually have an impact on their shoppers helping to improve their retail experience rather than simply being digital for digital’s sake.