Disrupting the Store
The store experience isn’t what it used to be. Rapidly developing omnichannel technologies, such as mobile and social, are redefining the very definition of a “store” and what customers can accomplish within.
In addition, retailers can glean more information about consumers using leading-edge technology. For example, indoor location analytics vendor iInside lets retailers track and analyze store traffic using customer mobile devices to provide a host of data on store operations and processes.
Chain Store Age asked three store technology experts to provide a little insight on where the store experience is today and where it is headed tomorrow. Deena Amato-McCoy, retail and consumer markets research analyst for Aberdeen Group; Kathleen Fischer, marketing manager of Boston Retail Partners; and Tom Johnson, retail and consumer practice principal at PwC, all shared their thoughts on how technology is disrupting the store.
Deena Amato-McCoy, Aberdeen Group: “For many retailers, the key to in-store customer engagement means adding a mobile strategy — one that can be utilized by associates as well as shoppers. Giving associates and shoppers instant access to pricing, inventory levels, customer reviews and loyalty programs will make a huge difference for retailers going forward. Add in a mobile checkout experience, either through proprietary handheld units or tablets, or an experience navigated and controlled by shoppers, and retailers will be able to maintain shopper relationships, as well as enable them to engage with the brand and associates, however they are comfortable.”
Kathleen Fischer, Boston Retail Partners: “The store of the future will no longer be just a brick-and-mortar location. The lines have blurred among online, mobile and brick-and-mortar, and new avenues for shopping continue to appear. Indeed, the advent of the 3-D printer will change the shopping experience in the store through the transformation of some retailers into manufacturers as they create products on a ‘onesy’ basis allowing for mass customization using a 3-D printer.
Today’s consumers have the power and capability to shop and help themselves whenever, however and wherever they want, and to move seamlessly across all channels, and the store of the future must cater to this consumer.”
Tom Johnson, PwC: “The expansion of smart devices, free in-store Wi-Fi and emerging near-field communications / Bluetooth low-energy connections are enabling store experience innovation. PwC offers four examples based on insights from our 2013 ‘Global Multichannel Consumer Survey:’
• “Social shopping connects HD cameras, social networks and friends to virtual shopping experiences.
• “Interactive indoor store maps on mobile devices link shopping lists to on-site locations and provide customers with step-by-step directions on how to make a quick path through the store.
• “Store fulfillment centers allow customers to order online, select item(s) from store inventory and pick up at a concierge desk or drive-through.
• “Contextual awareness through smart devices, NFC/BLE, GPS and Wi-Fi allow shoppers to opt in for stock check-in and receive special offers, concierge service or deals in the store. Retailers need to master the leading experience innovation practices to remain competitive in an increasingly digitally enhanced store.”
The store experience is evolving to the point that offering these types of features does not even put retailers ahead of the curve — it merely keeps them from falling behind.
2014 sees upturn in consumer confidence
The new year is off to a solid start with an upturn in consumer confidence. After two months of decline in the wake of the partial government shutdown, the Conference Board has found that consumer confidence has bounced back to its highest level since September.
December’s index came in at 78.1, up from an upwardly revised figure of 72.0 in November and 72.4 in October.
“Consumer confidence rebounded in December and is now close to pre-government shutdown levels (September 2013, 80.2)," said Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators. "Sentiment regarding current conditions increased to a 5 ½ year high (April 2008, 81.9), with consumers attributing the improvement to more favorable economic and labor market conditions. Looking ahead, consumers expressed a greater degree of confidence in future economic and job prospects, but were moderately more pessimistic about their earning prospects. Despite the many challenges throughout 2013, consumers are in better spirits today than when the year began.”
As Franco acknowledged, the Present Situation Index increased to 76.2 from 73.5. This was predicated on a decrease in those claiming business conditions are "good," but an even larger decrease in those claiming they were "bad." Consumers were also more optimistic about the availability of jobs.
Looking ahead, the Expectations Index was up at 79.4, compared to 71.1 last month. More consumers expect business conditions to improve over the next six months, and the number of those expecting them to worsen was down by nearly 2 percentage points.
The greatest gain was in the labor market outlook, with those anticipating more jobs in the months ahead increasing from 13.1% to 17.1%. However, fewer consumers expected their incomes to increase in the short-term.
Overall consumer confidence reached a peak in June 2013, when it stood at 82.1.
Founder of Marshalls department store chain has died
Alfred Marshall, a founder of the Marshalls department store chain in the mid-1950s, died Saturday, Dec. 28 in Boca Raton, Fla., at the age of 94, according to a New York Times report.
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