Traditional retail is dying - so you need to compete with digital.

Long gone are the days of the 1950’s consumer boom, retail is a struggling industry and it now takes a lot more incentive to get consumers to buy in store. There are a variety of reasons this is the case, and one of the biggest is the rise of online shopping and digital e-commerce alternatives. 

It’s pretty hard to beat being able to shop from your pocket, bed or commute, hence why retail has slowed down. Smartphones were used in over one-third of U.S. retail sales in 2018, which includes everything from research to purchase. That is over a whopping 1 trillion in sales. We’re now in an age of digitally transpired convenience and so traditional models for commerce have slowed across industries. 

However what a lot of businesses are overlooking, is how you can bring digital and convenience into the store. A recent study from Salesforce shows that 87% of customers begin their shopping journey with digital, which is a big jump from the 71% in 2017. By combining a store front, ease to the consumer journey and interactive technology methods, you’re increasing the overall experience a customer has while shopping and ultimately giving yourself a recipe for boosted sales and customer retention - hard to say no to all of that!

Supermarkets were quick to uptake the digital experience using simplified versions of technology such as self scan throughout the store, and self checkout. Both of these initiatives makes for a speedier alternative that puts the consumer in control of their own purchasing journey. But what have the advancements been in the rest of the industry and to what benefit? Digitisation of retail can be anything from a full immersive and automated experience, or simply a powerful sales tool to aid in the traditional sales model. 

Trailblazer digital brand Reformation, known for their ethics and sustainable clothing, decided they wanted to do retail differently when opening their first physical store in LA. They of course have some of the makings of traditional retail, clothing racks and a sales team to help customers, but once you enter the changing room the full experience kicks off. Stepping in you’re greeted with a rack, where the clothes you’ve selected in store are magically sitting there. There is also an iPad, so from the comfort of your changing room you can select additional items or sizes, which then get inserted directly into your changing room through a cubby. The brand has had great success with this way of shopping, as it means customers can consider, browse and play in private, and are often trying on more garments than they would in a simply traditional space - which you can imagine has had a great result to sales too. Reformation are the perfect example of stores who started digital with online only, then took their digital standpoint with them when opening a physical store. Studies show that more that 850 digital native companies are said to expand into brick and mortar in the US alone within the next 5 years, proving retail is not dying, just adapting. 

A more simplistic but equally as successful example is with European sportswear giant Intersport. Recognising a trend towards digital, they developed their own system “The Digital Basket” to allow customers to shop from iPads in store. A pretty powerful tool it also empowers the store staff, working on their side to help customers more efficiently and at a much faster pace. Being able to check sizes across stores and order in items customers want, all from an iPad. They’re in the process of rolling this out across most of their European stores - and have seen some pretty great success around it so far. With 53% of millennials thinking store clerks don’t have the digital tools, such as mobile devices, they need to provide quality customer service, moves like this are imperative for capturing new generations. 

Nike has been innovating on all accounts since the brands inception in 1964. In 2018 they took this innovation to retail, opening a flagship store in New York, aptly named ‘Nike House of Innovation 000’. This store was a bit of a game changer, incorporating multiple digital elements to appeal to a range of customers. From customisation studios, instant check-out across the 6-story store, to arguably the coolest (yet a simple concept) the “Speed Shop”. Speed Shop takes the buy online and pick up in store concept to the next level, allowing customers to simply reserve shoes online and try them on in store, through a dedicated entrance by finding a locker with their name on it to access the items via your smart-phone. and the next phase? Mobile check out. So once you’ve found your locker, unlocked it with digital magic and tried the shoes on, at a press of a button you can purchase and walk out your entrance avec new kicks. 

Digital sales experiences can also be taken down to have a more internal purpose and serve just as much of a benefit to the consumer and staff experience. Costor Diamonds saw a serious need to ease the manual elements for their luxury sales staff, they needed to be able to seamlessly talk and show their customers through their diamond catalogue without hindering the one to one approach that is still important within the luxury industry. Their current system was 100% paper based, which as you can imagine took its sweet time for in store conversions. They’ve since been working out their phase one, giving them transparent inventories, access to currency conversions and total clarity across their business. The goal for them is to expand and make this a tool that does literally everything to support the needs of their team, and decrease conversion times in the process, allowing them to help more of their customers find their dream diamonds. 

Regardless of what your business does, if you work in a retail environment, it may be worthwhile looking into digitising for the sake of your customers. There's no reason why digital can’t work in harmoniously with your traditional foundations either, as every consumer is after different things, offering both a digital and traditional means each customer can choose the best way that suits them to interact and buy in your store. As technology continues to develop, the limitations are as only as far as you can imagine, incorporating simple yet effective inventory management, to automated checkouts and self-scans, or smart-changing rooms and virtual reality to really feel and experience the brand - all of this happening in the pursuit to make shopping in stores a destination once again.