When Google opened a bricks and mortar store, as it did in London this year in March, it was a symbol of a remarkable swing of power back to the physical from the virtual world.
This swing, which is gathering momentum, is set to become so substantial it will turn the tables, as digitally connected bricks and mortar retailers disrupt their online competitors, throwing online stores into a price war and wiping out many of the smaller independent e-tailers.
When online glasses retailer Warby Parker, opened its shop front in 2013, it was for a pure brand awareness play, putting the name Warby Parker in front of the eye balls that were tricky to reach online. Now in 2015 the reasons to be a bricks and mortar retailer just got richer, and the future of retail looks more like David Jones than it does Amazon.
For starters, Bricks and Mortar are becoming more connected than pure online stores. Technology such as heat mapping, 3D mapping and geo locators are making physical environments more digital data rich, while responsive customer experiences are engaging more deeply with customers than online and successfully attracting them back to the physical stores.
The online channel, now really a discount channel, is feeling the pressure of downward spiral of prices. In contrast the bricks and mortar store is using digital enhancement to grow its value proposition and marketshare. Here are some the key trends which define this return to a digitally connected bricks and mortar stores and examples of their best practice application.
A ‘store within a store’ format. Google’s store in London is actually a store within a store, while using the best of visual merchandising, stores like Target are using displays to give customers a feel for what the product would look like at home rather than by stacking products on shelf space.
The store as a fulfilment centre. Woolworths are part of this action, with a recent deal with Ebay to be a distribution point for online sales. This deal allows Woolworths to see what products are trending, drive traffic in-store and develop relationships with Ebay’s customers.
Mobile connectivity in the store. Audi’s digital car showroom in London allows customers to project their designs on the wall with an astounding 7 out of 10 customers buying a car without a test drive and 9 out 10 customers new to the Audi brand.
Nordstrom uses mobile connectivity with their mobile POS system so employees can track customers anywhere in their store. The app gives Nordstrom’s sales staff access to the entire inventory, allowing staff to assist customers to locate products by sizes, styles or colors.
In the future, streaming technologies like Periscope could bring the browsing customer in touch with non local sales assistants, who can guide them using a 3D map of the store.
Target promotes its mobile connectivity. In September 2015, Target in the US announced it will use a Digital Store Ambassador to drive in-store customers to use Target’s app, enhancing their shopping experience.
Stores as theatres and learning centres, Asics and Nike offers free in-store Health and well being consultations, creating value that online retailers cannot imitate. Asic’s store in London offers a free gait analysis to customers including a 3D mapping of your feet for a perfect match of shoe.
The Google shop is also a learning centre and a place to play, an in-store portal invites customers to fly anywhere using google earth and a large “Doodle Wall” is a canvas to make your own doodle with artificial spray cans.
Mobile technology platforms, tactile and 3D engagement and effectiveness of personalised customer experiences are the disruptive drivers underpinning these trends in retail. It is a disruption that is making experience an important part of every product and putting some barriers of entry in place for the niche player.
You can find out more about disrupting trends impacting retail, through our free BrandTrax Consumer Trends Report bit.ly/1J6J5jq
Leading Disruptive innovator and brand planner
Founder of the Thought Leaders Circle
Founder and principal
Hearts and Minds