The Future of Retail: Making It Personal

April 9, 2015 The Architech Team

If you’re a retailer, you probably don’t need reminding that your industry is in the middle of a full-scale revolution. Yet that’s what we got late last month as big box tech giant, Future Shop, announced it will close most of its stores across Canada. It became the latest in a growing list of similar closures that now includes Target, Zellers and Radio Shack – and don’t for a minute think that the bloodshed is over. “There's no way this is the last retailer that's coming down,” Mark Rothschild, a real estate analyst at Canaccord Genuity told the CBC. “There obviously will be more, because online retailers are taking a big chunk out of the shopping dollar."

The reality is, technology has allowed digital businesses such as Amazon to disrupt what was once a given: that consumers need physical stores, not just for the purchase but also for advice, knowledge and comparisons. As Future Shop discovered the hard way, online sites can serve these needs as well or better than bricks and mortar locations for all but the biggest purchases.

Opportunity Lost

Recent studies have shown that despite the heavy attrition, 72% of consumers find the traditional store experience to be important when making a purchase. However, when they don’t receive customized, relevant content and offers, 54% of consumers are willing to shift their loyalty elsewhere. It’s going to be hard to make ends meet if you’re left with only 18% of consumers.

Customer recognition in retail

Making The In-Person, Personal

So how can traditional retailers stem the tide of online defections and give their customers a reason to shop in-store? The answer is deceptively simple.  Retailers must take advantage of one of the few things they have that online sites don’t: a customer right there, in person. In some ways, it’s a throwback to retail’s origins, back when every customer was recognized and known by name to the shopkeeper, and it wasn’t unusual for the relationship to include plenty of personal information that had nothing to do with that day’s purchase. Today’s retailer, especially in busy urban environments like malls, can’t expect that their store staff will have this level of trust and intimacy with shoppers on their own. But with the right technology in place, they can come surprisingly close.

The Colour Of Money

One business that has seized this opportunity is fashion retailer AS Colour. Realizing that it’s one thing to carry clothes in a variety of colours but quite another thing to get people to buy them, AS Colour developed a unique in-store interactive display that uses colour science to make clothing colour recommendations based on a shopper’s current outfit. It’s called Colourmatic, and while it might sound like a gimmick, the results speak for themselves: more than 10,000 people have tried the display, and sales are up 16%. 

From a shopper’s point of view, Colourmatic is fun and even a bit helpful. From AS Colour’s point of view, it’s a perfect way to build customer profiles that can be used to better understand behaviours, generate loyalty through personalized offers and, of course, give shoppers a reason to come back again (maybe wearing a different outfit next time!)

Out of Sight, But Not Out of Mind

Not all personalized recommendations need to be done face to face. ModiFace has pioneered augmented reality (AR) software that can be used both in-store as well as on-the-go by consumers to get instant and personalized cosmetics recommendations based on selfies you take on your device as well as historical photos of you, culled from social media platforms like Facebook. Its ability to detect skin tone as well as undertone lets it surface product suggestions that could have only been made by an in-store professional in the past. When adapted by retailers, this technology can be a powerful way to reach people at the “Zero Moment Of Truth” – that point in time when a consumer goes in search of an answer. Using ModiFace’s Beautiful Me app, for instance, turns a consumer into a customer in just a few clicks.

An even stronger extension of this experience would include the ability for consumers to wishlist items they aren’t ready to buy yet. The next time they come to a store, a staff member would be aware of the ‘carted’ items and could offer them an incentive to buy those products, perhaps with a small discount or extra loyalty points.

One Relationship, Many Touch Points

As impressive as these technologies are, their success rate depends heavily on how they’re implemented. In the rush to dazzle customers with the latest and greatest, retailers can lose sight of what matters most: deepening that customer relationship. The battle to keep consumers from couch-surfing their way through their retail needs can’t be won with just a 90-inch interactive display or an e-commerce app.  It requires an integrated approach, where customer data is consistent, persistent and accessible across every touch point, from the website to the iPad being wielded by a store staffer. Only then can the real power of recognized recommendations be realized.

We create integrated solutions for our clients every day. Let us show you how to evolve your retail offerings through the right use of technology. Together, we’ll explore memorable digital experiences and improve the way your customers live, work and play.

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