Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

Digital In-store Environment Is Converting Online Research to Sales

By / December 2016


Consumers now expect a seamless experience when they shop online and in-store. Being able to browse on smartphones and tablets, placing an order and picking up in-store is becoming commonplace and opens the door to opportunities for retailers.

Online Research Can Drive In-Store Traffic

A survey from Pragma Consulting says 84 percent of consumers prefer online channels for research. But when they’re ready to buy, 53 percent of shoppers said they prefer being in-store to make the final decision to purchase.

A recent Forbes article detailing the Pragma survey quoted Pragma associate director, Jacob Gascoine-Becker, “In-store staff should be adding to the overall customer experience with knowledge to support the way in which consumers now view physical stores as part of their shopping repertoire. This could be as simple as providing them with tablets to access detailed product information, reviews and customer details, to even the playing field with today’s hyper-informed shopper.”

Engaging In-Store Experiences

Astound Commerce asked more than 1,000 consumers about key shopping influencers, online customer behavior, in-store preferences and social commerce actions. The findings were revealed in Astound’s 2016 Holiday Report.  

According to the report, “The face of retail is continuing to shift into a complex, multi-layered experience and retailers that offer comprehensive digital capabilities with flexible fulfillment options and engaging in-store experiences are poised to grab a competitive share of consumer dollars.”

Astound says in-store tech is an important feature for shoppers, with 55 percent saying they would rather interact with technology in the store than with sales associates. On the other hand, 69 percent say positive interactions with a sales associate impact purchasing decisions.

When asked how desirable would these capabilities be this holiday season, consumers responded:

81% –      Technology that assist shoppers in finding the exact location of a product within a physical store

75% –      Notification via mobile phone that an item in your cart is available/in-stock when you arrive at the store

74% –      Touch screens/kiosks that facilitate information gathering, allowing for checkout or arrange for delivery

73% –      In-store texts or push notifications while visiting the store to receive coupons or be alerted of promotions

Astound’s report found that more than any other age group, millennials order on mobile devices, use same day deliver, and shop at the last minute. However, they also will embrace physical stores. This is a clear indication that retailers need to optimize all channels to guarantee success.

The real value to consumers is to blur the lines between digital and physical shopping by combining the high-touch, in-person experience with the speed and efficiency of the web.

Here’s BizTech’s review of the latest in-store technology advancements, including interactive kiosks, augmented reality and memory mirror.

Kiosks Offer Education and Self-Service

Beauty destination Sephora is investing in kiosks as self-service tutorials for customers to try cosmetic products before they buy.

The Fragrance IQ Kiosk helps shoppers identify their fragrance personality by asking a series of questions, such as floral or fresh, warm or spicy or earthy and woody. Complete with InstaScent providing samples of representative scents, Fragrance IQ narrows down options and even emails 10 suggested scents to support final purchase decisions.

Color IQ features a touch-screen kiosk that allows review of thousands of shades for Sephora customers to find the right foundation, concealer and lipstick for their skin tones.

Skincare IQ is another kiosk that matches customers with the right treatments for puffy eyes or dry lips.

Augmented Reality Delivers Consumer Confidence

Sephora is also testing Virtual Artist, an augmented reality app that uses a tablet or smartphone webcam to capture a shopper’s face in real time, then shoppers can “apply” their choice of more than 3,000 lipstick shades.

Meanwhile, hardware giant Lowe’s is experimenting with Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality (AR) glasses in its Raleigh, N.C. and Seattle stores. The home improvement centers let customers envision their remodeled kitchen before beginning the makeover project.

With a Microsoft Surface tablet, prospective customers can pick new cabinets, counter tops and appliances, then put on the HoloLens to see how their choices will look inside a real kitchen. The HoloLens is different from virtual reality headsets, which seal viewers off from the world around them. Instead, the AR glasses overlay objects on top of actual ones so the wearer can see both real and computer-generated images at the same time.

With just a few taps, Lowe’s shoppers have the option of changing granite counters or swap stainless steel appliances. This tool gives customers the confidence to visualize the upgrades and make their new kitchen a reality.

Memory Mirror Enhances Clothing Choices

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is helping shoppers to pick out the best fitting clothes, styles and colors in high-tech dressing rooms now available in 20 locations.

The Memory Mirror combines a full-length dressing room mirror with a 70-inch LCD, an HD camera and a high-powered computer. The cameras record eight-second videos, which is the time it takes for a full 360-degree twirl. Shoppers can play back the videos on the mirrors to see how they look or compare outfits side by side.

Customers can also email or text video links to get a friend’s opinion or post on Facebook before making a purchase.

Make In-Store A Destination

In addition to digital in-store technology, making customers comfortable is critical to increasing and lengthening visits. For example, Barnes & Noble is developing new concept stores with more customer seating areas to reinforce the retailer’s best qualities and its role as a community epicenter. The new stores will also feature larger, modernized cafes, expanded food and beverage offerings including wine and beer, and table-side service.

To complement the in-store experience, Barnes & Noble’s new mobile app will give shoppers a digital layout of the store to help them find books in-store. The app will also enhance customer service by allowing booksellers to assist shoppers from anywhere on the floor.

The National Retail Federation says ecommerce accounts for only 7.5 percent of overall sales, but it’s growing at two to three time the rate of brick and mortar sales. To stay ahead, retailers must give consumers a reason to complete transactions in-store. With key investments in the latest technology, retailers are using the digital in-store environment to convert online research to sales.

Tom O’Reilly – President and CEO, Aptaris. Tom has a deep understanding of the retail business from both the store and vendor perspectives. He brings decades of hands-on experience in advertising and promotions including new media innovations. As an entrepreneur, he has transformed each organization he has worked with. Tom is a forward-thinking leader with a history of driving innovation, growth and profitability. As an avid reader, Tom is always enthusiastically sharing cutting-edge ideas with clients and colleagues.


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