Giving Brick and Mortar Retailers the Upper Hand with New Technologies to Combat the Online Shopping Craze

Nick Wood, Research & Communications Specialist, hybris labs
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Online retailers have succeeded in owning the customer relationship by utilizing technologies to visualize shopping behaviour across channels. This has allowed brands to correspond directly to consumer needs, providing them with personalized offers. With this evolution in shopping, in-store retailers have lost their edge, and need a way to fight back. Their key to success lies in a “digital” approach to generate tailored experience that benefits both the customer and the organization.

This challenge has prompted hybris to recreate the intuitive online experience in-store by generating real-time information about what shoppers are thinking of buying. In particular, the hybris labs team focuses on painting a picture of a world in which the customer journey can be analysed and acted upon in real-time across every channel by connecting the physical retail space.

This connected retail space includes the ‘Funky Retail’ prototype, where strategically placed sensors in Funky Boxes light up when a customer approaches a product. Indicated by a change of colour, the box can inform an assistant how long a customer has stood in front of a product. As soon as a customer lifts a product, a short promotional video clip is shown on a big screen.

In a similar vein, the ‘Changing Room’ scenario uses RFID scanners to identify which items have been brought into the changing cabin so that sales personnel know what the customer has chosen. They can then react quickly to offer different options, while a connected tablet inside the cabin also allows the shopper to browse alternatives.

This instant understanding of a customer’s preferences generates spot-on real-time analytics, paving the way for future marketing. The choices that are readily available to shoppers in-store should help retailers convert those customers who like to browse in-store but then buy online into in-store purchasers. This reduces the showrooming in-store and creates a full omni-channel experience for the customer.

In the food and drink trade, good service equates with customer satisfaction. With 2015 having been tipped by technology commentators as the year in which the IoT will finally begin to impact business growth, hybris labs built a beer table as part of an Oktoberfest initiative, in which sensors embedded in beer mats alert staff when a customer’s glass is empty. This invention should guarantee eternal gratitude for drinkers in a crowded bar.

Always aware of the ‘creepy factor’ of knowing what consumers want before they even know they want something, these technologies require customers to opt in. With the Smart Wine Shelf, customers are able to establish their personal wine profile by answering a few questions. Once the profile is ready, it can be sent to a nearby wine shelf, which in return will highlight the wines that match the customer’s profile.

These are just a few innovative examples of how brick and mortar retailers can take a “digital” approach to make a comeback and combat the so called showrooming-effect. Retail competition continues to grow with online retailers adopting a number of innovative technologies to increase their share.

However, physical stores now have the tools they need to compete. While customers have gained the upper hand over retailers in recent years, it’s up to the retailer to understand consumer preferences and map out omni-channel strategies that cater a customer’s wants and needs. The brands adopting this approach and thinking beyond their own physical walls will see positive results regarding their sales and customer loyalty.

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