Integrate technology into your stationary location

At its core, the function of a brick-and-mortar store is not much different today than it was fifty years ago: a customer comes looking for a product or service, the company makes it available to them, they pay and leave.

But unlike fifty years ago, technology is changing rapidly, enhancing the customer experience in innovative and engaging ways, both in the back-end and in a customer-facing way. Retailers need technology to improve the experience for their customers.

Today we see brands incorporating augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robots and more into their brick-and-mortar locations. But can these new technologies actually help bring more customers to the store and keep them coming back?

The role of technology

The use of technology is not necessarily new for retailers, restaurants, banks, gyms and other businesses. Local locations have had to keep up with the times by building websites and apps, enabling e-commerce and upgrading inventory management systems to better run their business and better serve their customers.

But why just keep up with technology? Why not use new technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and interactive displays to stay ahead of the times – and your competitors. Technology can play a huge role in creating unique, enjoyable shopping experiences for your customers that draw them in and keep them coming back.

Imagine a customer enters your location. You check in at an interactive kiosk and receive personalized recommendations. Then, when they buy products, they use their smartphones to scan labels and learn more—perhaps seeing the product come to life on their screen. Digital displays around the store not only show the way, but also show demonstration videos for the customer to interact with. When he finally has the right product in his hand, he simply checks out at a self-checkout tablet.

Don’t think that creating an engaging shopping experience should be secondary to other priorities, because I believe it’s great experiences that ultimately drive sales. According to PwC, 65% of US consumers say that positive experiences with a brand influence them more than the brand’s advertising, and 73% of consumers consider their experiences with the brand when making purchasing decisions. When you have a great experience, you can often charge more, as 86% of consumers would be willing to pay more for a product if they also got a great experience.

types of technology

There are a number of different types of technology that brick-and-mortar retailers can use to provide entertainment, education and service to their customers.

A technology that is becoming increasingly popular is digital signage and interactive displays. Many restaurants and cafes are transitioning their menus to digital, allowing for real-time updates without having to wait for a reprint. Digital displays can also help with wayfinding, allowing customers to orient themselves to place orders and check out without having to wait in line. It can also help keep customers informed of store news, current promotions, and even health and safety information.

Brick-and-mortar retailers can also offer immersive experiences to their customers by adding AR capabilities. Customers can scan products with their phone to get more information about them or, as in the case of Rabble Wine and Jack Daniel’s, they can watch a bottle’s label come to life on their screen. You can use AR to create a game or scavenger hunt for customers in your store like LEGO did with its Hidden Side ghost hunt in store.

You can also offer your customers VR experiences that can take them into virtual worlds to try out products or have an experience related to your brand. In 2015, The North Face tested virtual reality headsets that gave customers the ability to hike, climb, or jump, hoping to entice customers to do the real thing — and the gear needed to do it to buy.

Using AI in your brick-and-mortar store can also help streamline the experience and offer customers personalized options as well. AI is one of the technologies powering the Amazon Go store, allowing customers to purchase products and simply walk out, while sensors recognize what they’ve bought and charge it to their account. Some clothing and makeup stores use “smart mirrors” that use AI to scan a person’s facial features and provide personalized recommendations.

Finally, we know that robots have long been used in warehouses to fulfill orders. So why not that they help customers? Retailers like Pepper are popping up customer service robots that can chat with customers, answer questions, and give them directions.

Technology for the future of your stationary business

What can you do today to make your brick-and-mortar business more technologically advanced? Don’t just implement technology for technology’s sake, identify areas where technology can improve the shopping experience for your customers. Do customers spend more money when they see a demo? Add digital, interactive screens so they can watch demos while shopping. Do you see an opportunity for more self-checkout options to streamline the experience? Add them. Tired of updating and reprinting static menus and signs? Go digital and save time and money.

As you implement new technologies at your site, you should have a strategy in place to track usage and interactions so you can also measure engagement and ROI. For example, analyzing the data collected by your self-service kiosk can not only give you insight into who is using it and how, but you can also use these insights to improve the customer experience by displaying customized offers and suggestions for target personas, if these are used this self-service kiosk.

Implementing new technology into your brick-and-mortar operations isn’t just about keeping up with trends or having fun. From state-of-the-art POS systems to customer service robots, technology has the ability to excite and delight your customers by providing them with a seamless experience so they can move faster.

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