The future of shopping: a connected online and retail brand experience

retail and online shopping brands

The more I use online shopping the more I crave the physical environment of a store to browse the products, touch the fabrics and try things on. The physical retail space is still very important to me and it seems that I’m not alone. PWC recently published a report called “Connected and curated —Long live the store!” where there research found that 68 percent of Australian consumers are still primarily using physical stores as an integral part of the shopping process. Traditional stores are now adapting to the conveniences of online shopping to offer a truly connected online experience. There are some amazing new innovations set to reframe the retail shopping experience!

As more consumers turn back to the retail store – innovation will be the key for a connected experience.

Online shopping does have its perks, especially when it comes to fashion. You can conveniently browse products in your budget and which have your size in stock. You can quickly see what other products go together to make an outfit and there is no cueing up for change rooms and cash registers. Some websites like birdsnest.com.au also allow you to refine your search by your body shape so you know what clothes will suit you. Despite all its advantages it still has a major downside – you can’t touch and feel what you’re buying. The future of online shopping is set to combine the best of both words with a connected and seamless shopping experience.

The recent PWC report on the connected retail environment details some some exciting trends and innovations set redefeine our shopping experience, here are is a summary of the most exciting ones:

1. Mobile Order and Pay in Stores – In the US, Starbucks is set to introduce ‘Mobile Order and Pay in stores’ across the US in 2015, enabling customers to place their coffee orders in advance of their visit and pick them up at their selected Starbucks location. This evolution in the purchasing process for Starbucks will ‘deliver convenience, frequency and speed of service and over time, become the fastest and easiest way for customers to order, pay and pick up their purchases’.

2. Interactive window displays – Window displays will become more engaging and interactive enticing you into the store. Japanese apparel retailer United Arrow created an interactive ‘ManiquinetteBot’ window display which uses Microsoft’s Kinect technology to mimic the movements of window shoppers, attracting not only customers, but media attention.4

3. Targeted mobile promotions – Imagine walking into a store and being sent a notification on your phone about specific sales on your favourite brands. Your favourite shop assistant is also notified that you have entered the store and is ready for you. Retailers will be able to tap into personal data stored on your phone and will be able to target you accordingly. One would hope that this is optional!!

Mobile app Shopkick which utilises geo-locational technology (similar to iBeacons) recently released a report stating that since its launch in 2010, it has driven more than one billion dollars in revenue for its partner retailers (including the likes of Macy’s, Best Buy, Sony and Unilever).

4. Virtual and augmented reality – If you’re interested in keeping up with the latest trends then then virtually reality could soon become part of your everyday shopping experience. Imagine placing headset on and being taken to the sidelines of the latest fashion week cat walk.  The virtual reality headset originally designed for gaming, has already been used by the likes of TopShop which used this technology combined with live streamed HD footage, 360-degree photography, tweets and animation to enable customers to experience what it’s like to be on the front row of a fashion show. Onlinee retailers such as ASOS are tapping into this by showing how the garments on their site can be warn with a short video clip of a cat walk.

5. Linking customers profile and shopping experience – Imagine if you could walk into a shop and identify all of the items that matched your profile, the right size, cut, colour and price range! Now that would be an enjoyable shopping experience. Linking a customers’ personal profile to their shopping experience is an incredibly powerful tool – enabling retailers to customise offers, understand motivations and provide a more fulfilling experience. By collecting and analysing this data it creates a rich picture of a customer – ideal for driving personalised customer service interactions.

This is something that US retailer Nieman Marcus was doing in 2012 through its NM app, which allowed customers to send messages to sales associates, arrange for products to be placed in dressing rooms before they arrived and view what associates were on the floor. At the same time, sales associates could view customers’ purchase history, were notified when a preferred customer entered the store and accessed customers’ Facebook photos to help them identify shoppers.

6. Custom fit clothing matched to you – If you’re an online clothes shopper then you will know the hardest part about looking at an image online is knowing if it will fit you. Taking the doubt out of digital, Acustom Apparel overcomes the trust issues of trying before you buy with its digital measuring technologies, that gathers 200,000 data points to create a customer’s 3D body model. The retailer then uses these measurements in its proprietary Digital Bespoke algorithms to create custom clothing… that is guaranteed to fit. Yes please!

7. Video displays for products – Giving new meaning to visual merchandising in fashion and apparel, teamLabHanger is a whole of store system triggered by sensors installed in hangers that clothing is hung on. When a customer picks up the hanger coordinated images and videos, or item information is displayed via screens that sit behind the display. According to the TeamLab website, the theory behind the device is that ‘when you take something into your hand, the subconscious movement is the result of an action of wanting to know more about the item’ and the hanger acts as this conduit.

8. Mass customisable products – Mass customisation and the increasing sophistication with which it is executed will become the norm – as customers expect seamless and concierge type experiences, the ability to have products that are unique and customised to their exact specifications is becoming a clear differentiator. Technologies such as 3D-printing will only facilitate the growth of these markets. When these technologies become mainstream and manufacturing gets put in the hands of the customer… it will be the blueprints that will be key to commercial success in retail.

There is definitely some exciting innovations here. The key to the success of these platforms will be the ability for users to choose how connected they become with retailers. The ability to be selective will ensure customers feel that they still have control over their shopping experience

See the full report here.

Source: PWC “Connected and Curated: Long Live the Store” November 2014

Gemma Dittmar
Director of Brand Projects

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