If you’re a bricks-and-mortar retail brand, then you’ve probably noticed the intense competition that is being driven by sales online or through apps.
You might think that the convenience of purchasing online would signal the death-knell for in-store retail, but studies have shown that this isn’t true. People actually do still want to physically shop in-store, however the face of what that looks like is changing.
Fiona Briggs presented the results of studies in an article for Forbes. Customers do prefer to go through the final stages of their shopping journey physically in-store, however they will prefer to conduct research online beforehand.
This represents opportunities for stores – what if you could provide mobile experiences which help customers with research or otherwise create a more engaging experience in-store?
What enhances the in-store experience?
Let’s start out with something that tends to be a good thing to avoid; trying to create an app which is derived from the experience of your mobile-responsive website. Store apps tend to be used by a smaller percentage of your overall customers, however the users tend to be your loyal customers, the ones who will keep returning as long as they appreciate the experience you provide.
Your most loyal customers will also be the ones who tend to spend more, so when it comes to delivering an app, you should be thinking about what it is that will excite them, enhance their experience somehow and even have them telling others about it.
When you’re talking about enhancing the in-store experience, you might look at the following components to keep shoppers engaged:
- Discovery – As we heard earlier, while shoppers like to complete the experience in-store, they prefer to research online first. The opportunity for apps here is to make product discovery easy from within the mobile experience. For example, could users scan a barcode or QR code in-store to pull up all the information they need on the product? Could you improve the checkout experience by putting app features in place to make it faster?
- Engaging Content – Are there “extras” you could provide for your loyal users? For example, content of interest? Customers may be interested to know about the sustainable sources of your products, or even to access content that is loosely related. Starbucks is an example of this, providing access to music on their app. A customer could potentially sip their coffee while listening to music of their choice from the app.
- Loyalty or rewards – Seeing rewards accumulate on an app can be a motivating enhancement for your users. Using Starbucks as an example again, users can always see how many “stars” they need to collect to earn a reward and are often seeing offers on the home screen for ways to earn bonuses. You could also use your app to offer coupons, such as what Target do with their Cartwheel app, or perhaps send push notifications of offers when the customer is nearby or in-store.
- Utility – Besides features like product discovery, what other “utility” functions could your app have? Starbucks has a store locater and allows users to order ahead on the app. Perhaps a retail store could allow for app checkout to speed their customers through the queue. “Click and collect” which allows users to buy on the app and collect in-store is another possibility.
- Community – Does it make sense for your brand to offer classes or events in-store? You could use your app to invite people to attend and advertise what you have going on.
You’ve really got to think about how the physical and digital experience can work together to enhance one another. It’s not enough to simply rely on a mobile-friendly website, because with an app you have the opportunity to create better utility and an overall easier experience.
What are brands doing?
There are brands out there already creating really cool experiences in-store via mobile, and the exciting thing is that we’re really only just getting started with what mobile can bring to the store experience. Here are a few examples of brands creating engaging experiences in-store using apps and mobile:
“Seamless” is one word that comes to mind when you look at how Apple has combined the physical and digital for an engaging in-store experience. Apple’s “Next Generation” stores are currently in a few key locations, but they are expanding their concept further.
Sales team members all carry iPads, allowing them to answer customer questions quickly and help customers to research what they need. Customers can make appointments for the “Genius Bar” via the mobile app or online, then they are welcomed when they arrive in-store.
You might expect this from a company who are already at the cutting-edge of technology, but Apple are currently beating most other tech providers for in-store experiences that combine digital and physical. All products can be tried in-store and the use of mobile is basically the backbone of the store.
Inside a “Next Generation” Apple Store. Image source: AppleInsider
For an engaging digital experience at work in a luxury fashion brand, Rebecca Minkoff’s New York City flagship store is a great example.
The store caters to customer preference by giving them options, including simply browsing as they would traditionally if they would like. For those who are digitally inclined, the store offers state-of-the-art technology, allowing shoppers to browse on giant touchscreen mirrors. They can even order drinks and download the mobile app from the mirror.
The customer can then select available items that they’d like to try and have them added to their dressing room. Once ready, the customer will receive a text message. The fitting room mirror is next-level tech. The customer can call a stylist and configure settings such as lighting and temperature for their fitting room. If the customer decides to purchase the items, they can request check out by tapping the mirror in their dressing room.
Another important feature here is the follow-up. The customer’s preferences will be saved to their profile so that next time they are in-store, they can receive intelligent recommendations. You can check out a walk-through of the store here on YouTube.
Lowes has recently partnered up with Google and Lenovo to create their app Lowe’s Vision. The app features cutting-edge augmented reality technology so that users can measure their spaces at home and envision virtually how items such as furniture will look in those spaces.
When customers then come into a Lowe’s store, the app on their phone can tell them where to find the products they’ve picked out and can give them other information on the products. This is really taking care of two stumbling blocks at once for Lowe’s shoppers: 1) will this look good in my home?, and 2) how do I navigate this enormous store?
Image source: Lowe’s
How will you create digital experiences?
Successful brands tend to be those who are prepared to adapt to customer preferences and move ahead with the advantages that new technology can bring them. While many bricks and mortar retailers have struggled with competition online, studies show that customers still have a preference for completing their shopping journey in-store.
Creating seamless digital experiences in-store helps cater to customer preference and bring them the best of both worlds. How can your brand integrate digital experiences? The possibilities are almost endless…
Koombea can help brands create engaging app experiences. Talk to us today about your needs.