Brick and Mortar Retail Experiences Are Beyond Disruptive
Emerging from the pandemic, the in-store shopping experience is simultaneously shockingly different, yet stunningly perfect. We conducted some consumer research to understand how technology is being deployed to create a fresh, safe shopping experience.
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Have you ever been to a store where they have all the things you like but nothing in your size? Where you fight through a busy, cramped layout, hangers cutting into your hands and a way too hot dressing room waiting to make dislike all your choices?
Experiences have power.
They can take a shopper who came in with a mission to impulse-buy the suit on the expertly dressed mannequin or drive them right back out the door before they complete a purchase.
Queue Reformation:An eco-friendly, luxury women’s brand who, with what few stores they do have, took their time away from in-store customers to radically meet consumer expectations.
They understood the assignment.
Walking into their Melrose store, you are greeted with a friendly face, a place to sanitize hands and a quick blurb on how the store operates. Racks of clothes neatly organized by color, and then, pattern line the middle of the store; all in just one size. To the right stands tv-sized touch screens, expertly distanced to give each shopper some space. The store is built so you can see the clothes, touch them, and catalog the options you like, and then, through a digital screen, fill your fitting room suite with all the items in your size.
Once satisfied with your virtual selections, you hit “done” and head over to a plush waiting area filled with distanced (but comfortable) seating. A clerk at the small, portable, natural-wood register stand calls out your name when your room is ready, leading you back to the extensive fitting room area.
Once ushered into your room, you are introduced to an iPad, a two-way wardrobe, a custom sound system and a switch that can change the temperature of the lighting in the room to your tastes. The two-way wardrobe is already full of your selections. If you want more you can simply close the wardrobe doors, select the item on the iPad, and wait for the delightful “ding!” that it’s ready for you to open once again.
It’s simple. It gives the illusion of hyper-personalization. Above all else, it’s delightful. You don’t see workers with disheveled go-backs flitting about to refill clothing on the floor. You aren’t thinking about just how many people have touched/worn that clothing. It’s no longer the awkward walk out of the dressing room to flag down someone for a different size. It’s the utopia of clothing shopping.
Why should we care what a niche retail brand is doing?
Your store is no longer a means to an end. We, as consumers, no longer must trudge from store to store on a Saturday fighting crowds and picking through piles. We can leisurely browse at home with reviews and information at our fingertips and incentive programs that ensure faster shipping. Our purchases are now dropped on our doorsteps, often the next day.
What we, as consumers, do want from an in-store experience, Reformation hit the nail on the head. An experience that not only entertains but is personalized and makes us feel unique. A store that knows “me” and “my tastes.” A store that takes a sweaty chore and makes it a luxurious evening, where we can engage with the product and later have a better understanding of what to expect when buying online.
People want the convenience of online, but they still want an in-store experience.
Sure, it’s easy to order toilet paper online, but when it comes to more personalized choices like clothing, consumers want that ability to experience items before purchasing. Beware the urge to snap back to your pre-pandemic normal. Consumers have had over 614 days to form habits and expectations, with time to reflect on what they like and what they dislike. Their expectations have never been higher.
Do not expect your shoppers to overcome barriers in their shopping experience as they used to. They will find a better option instead.
Three things retailers of now and in the future need to get right
- Flexible, low touch shopping experiences that create a safe space for customers to enjoy and connect with dedicated product. Think touch-less payment and expert foot traffic control.
- Hyper-personalized browsing that gives customers choices and learns from them. Think easy re-ordering or seamless in-store e-commerce purchases if a product is out of stock.
- While e-commerce may be highly product-focused, in-store is highly customer-experience-focused. Think in-store assistance, digital line place saving, or pre-visit planning tools like smart lists.
The future is here, faster than anyone anticipated, but it's here to stay. Not sure where to start? Try asking your customers what they're craving. No one knows them better than, well, them. Not sure how to do that? That's (part) of where we come in.
WWT is committed to ideating and implementing technology that puts customers at the center of the solution. Like at Reformation, where it's not just iPad-controlled lighting for the sake of having and iPad; it's about making shoppers feel their best when physically engaging with the product — an experience that, then, seamlessly flows from in-store to online.