The Future of Brick and Mortar

The Brick and Mortar Store: Will it be driven out by technology or will it be driven forward?

There is no arguing that booming e-commerce sales once created some serious doubts about the future of brick and mortar retail. After all, with Amazon leading the way, the concept of shopping has forever changed.Cyber Monday competes with Black Friday as the year’s craziest retail holiday.Every brand you can think of has some sort of online shopping presence with free shipping to boot. People are busier than ever and instant gratification certainly seems to be a societal phenomenon that shows no sign of going away soon.

In fact, according to a March article in Forbes.com, 4,300stores have been earmarked for closure in the United States in 2019 alone. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/callyrussell/2019/03/10/can-tech-save-bricks-and-mortar-retail/-6b94cae870df) So does point-and-click shopping boom signal the demise of brick and mortar retail? The answer is a resounding no way!  

According to that same feature in Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/callyrussell/2019/03/10/can-tech-save-bricks-and-mortar-retail/-6b94cae870df), even with the growing trend toward online retail, in 2018 only 10% of total sales in the United States were generated over the internet. That leaves a pretty big piece of the pie for in-store shopping experiences. The pendulum has shifted a bit since virtual shopping gained all that initial traction. It turns out that millennials and genZers actually like the high-touch gratification that only shopping in a tried-and-true store can deliver. You can see the proof playing out in the marketplace today with major online brands that once shunned physical retail environments now making them key parts of their business models. Just look at Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods and the launch of Amazon Go, two moves pointed out in an article by Axis41 as examples of the continued relevance of the in-store shopping experience. (https://www.axis41.com/blog/marketing-strategy/the-future-of-brick-and-mortar-stores/)

Brick and mortar retail is changing but not dying. It’s a very different landscape than it was just a few years ago and both brands and retailers are going to have to rethink things in order to suit the modern day consumer. This is the age of Retail 4.0 – the integration of advanced technologies into brick and mortar shopping experiences. Adapting is a necessity for virtually any brand or retail category you can imagine, however, it’s mission critical for high-value product categories – smartphones and tablets, home appliances, audio and video components, communications services, and the like – which are only becoming increasingly more complex.

These products require customers to make substantial time and money investments, and the shopping experience better be worth it.  High-touch and more engaging customer journeys driven by advanced technology will separate the contenders from the pretenders.

Technology And A Personal Customer Experience

One of the most compelling advantages technology brings to retail stores is the chance to deliver a truly personal shopping experience. While the online universe is a point-and-click, rather faceless interaction, the right technology implemented in stores can transform the customer journey into one that addresses and engages the customer’s individual needs and wants with a level of customization never before experienced.

For example, automaker, Jaguar, has developed an in-store virtual reality screen that allows customers to indulge in a highly sensory experience of owning their own Jaguar model. A Japanese retailer has gone as far as introducing a “neuroscience” fashion campaign that suggests clothing purchases based on mood. Kohl’s has come up with an interactive fitting room that allows customers to request different sizes, styles and colors using a touchscreen mounted inside the space. These innovations are elaborated in an online piece by Annex Cloud. (https://www.annexcloud.com/blog/9-examples-innovative-in-store-technology/). Another great example of technology changing the game is the introduction of Samsung’s advanced new stores. These showplaces incorporate visual and sensory experiences to bring customers a mind-blowing and uniquely personal shopping journey.

Admittedly, these are some of the more scintillating examples of in-store innovations. But there is a goldmine of data from basic activities and customer interactions that most retailers and brands are failing to capitalize on to improve the shopping journey. Things don’t always have to be so elaborate. More often than not, success is a matter of using technology to capture data and gain insights in order to make decisions with a greater level of confidence and relevance.

A recent article by Axis41 gives some telling examples of what happens when cosmetics salespeople get the right data, at the right time. They can be more specific in their follow up with customers by sending texts or emails to inform them of new or related products. Or, they might share online tutorials about product application with the potential for customers to continue the in-store experience remotely. (https://www.axis41.com/blog/marketing-strategy/the-future-of-brick-and-mortar-stores/)

Whatever the product, whatever the service, implementing advanced digital technology comes down to maximizing the customer experience.One of the most effective ways to do this is by capitalizing on the latest advancements in intelligent data capture technology, such as the solution offered by Mobile Insight®, the first retail management technology created specifically for high-value brands and retailers selling in brick and mortar locations.

Smart Data Delivers Powerful Customer Insights

There’s a simply philosophy behind data capture technology. The more you know about your customers’ experiences, the more effectively you can serve them. While this isn’t exactly earth-shattering news, what is making waves is how breakthrough technologies are being used to gain deeper, more accurate and actionable insights about what is impacting customer engagements.Data has fast become the new currency of brick and mortar operations because it allows brands and retailers to understand the many facets of the in-store customer journey better than they have ever been able to in the past.

For instance, the Mobile Insight® platform features customized smart forms with real-time photo capabilities so field teams can capture in-store conditions, product placement, pricing, merchandising, promotional materials, inventory and more in an instant. This gives brands and retailers the power to see their stores exactly as customers are experiencing them at any given time, making it easy to identify and resolve issues, and make improvements.By utilizing the latest in artificial intelligence and machine learning, new insights can help identify the key factors impacting local, regional, and national performance.  

Along with electronic forms data, Mobile Insight® integrates data pulled from other sources, such as POS sales data, geo-specific weather and traffic, footfall traffic, employee and 3PL related data, in-store sensors, autonomous robots, intelligent video and more.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to gain a better understanding of the factors impacting the customer experience, so that you can craft activities and experiences that address them and maximize performance. This means looking beyond what lies on the surface. It means seeing what’s not obvious at a first glance. It means being able to capture the right data and distilling it down to easily digestible reports that reveal powerful insights into your retail operations and how they are impacting the customer experience.

Understanding customer experiences in the Retail 4.0 era is not about the volume of data you capture. It’s about how relevant the data you capture is to your individual operation; how comprehensive the sourcing is in relation to your sales and operational goals; and how efficiently that data can be captured and analyzed to glean critical insights.

Solid Best Practices Are Key To A Successful Journey

As more and more brands and retailers scramble to meet the technological challenges of today’s Retail 4.0 climate, it’s important not to lose sight that this is still a brick and mortar sale. It’s a store visit. It’s a face-to-face interaction. It’s ensuring that the right people, with the right knowledge are supported by properly working merchandise and correctly priced products.

That’s why it’s so important to have genuine retail experience guiding the technology. An effective platform will not be nearly as powerful as it could be without the right people and best practices behind it.  

Mobile Insight® users benefit from a team that understands what it’s like to be responsible for a brand, to run stores, to launch new products, to course correct when sales aren’t meeting projections, to constantly look for new ways to improve customer service and enhance the sales conversation. It’s this unique combination of cutting-edge technology and real world experience that makes Mobile Insight® the smart choice for leading brands and retailers selling in the brick and mortar world.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the latest digital data capture and analytics technologies, backed by the right experience, can deliver powerful insights to improve your customer engagement and overall operations, visit mobileinsight.com.

Mobile Insight® is the only retail management solution designed to meet the brick and mortar sales challenges of high-value brands and retailers. Unlike hardware and software providers that focus on fast-moving goods, the Mobile Insight® platform delivers assisted sales solutions for more complex, interactive and customer-centric environments.Combining data from in-store systems, 3PLs, employee and partner activity, Mobile Insight® enables informed, smarter decisions that drive sales and operations excellence. For more information, visit www.mobileinsight.com.
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