Digital Invades Retail

One of the most exciting trends is the blending of the digital world and the real world. Retailers are starting to take note.

Retailers are increasingly using digital technology (tablets and mobile phones) to make the in-store experience better for consumers. They’re using mobile and tablets to help people find what they need, skip lines and to help them figure out things like what pair of shoes would look best with the dress they are buying. For retailers, the opportunity is to not only make people happier when they are in the store but also to push people to increase their basket size.

Aeropostale, which targets the teen and tween market, finds that having an in-store digital experience is a must for this demographic.

“Back in the old days, a kid’s coming of age was marked by getting his driver’s license, or their first car,” said Anthony McLoughlin, senior director of interactive marketing at Aeropostale. “Now, the coming-of-age moment is the day that kids get their first mobile phone. They can’t wait to be digitally connected to their friends. They want relevant content from brands, so they can share it with their peers.”

That’s why Aeropostale is opening a new store at Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, Long Island, and testing how digital can improve the experience. IPads will be placed in fitting rooms, where customers will be able to select and listen to their favorite music while trying on clothes. Shoppers will also find four iPad kiosks placed throughout the store that feature a user-generated build-your-own outfit guide, which can be emailed to customers and their friends for online purchase. Customers will be able to shop an optimized version of the brand’s website for hard-to-find items and place orders to ship home.

According to IDC, there’s a major disruption going on in retail right now, and it’s called the “omni-channel consumer.” Retailers need to become omni-channel in their approach to customer service, marketing and commerce.

Take Adidas, for example, which is working with TBWA for an in-store experience that sync’s with consumers’ smartphones. An interactive digital window connects with consumers’ smartphones during a six-week pilot test at the Adidas NEO Label store-front in Nürnberg, Germany.

By visiting a URL via her smartphone and typing in a one-time PIN, the shopper’s phone becomes interlinked in real time with a shopping bag on the window, showing a live view of its contents. Any product dropped into the window’s shopping bag instantly appears on the person’s phone. The shopper can edit product details, save products for immediate or later purchase and share with friends through social media or email. The smartphone is the key here. The window is basically an interactive showcase of the products. If a customer wants to buy a product, it’s done in the privacy of her own device. There’s no waiting on line or having to find a sales associate for help.

“The basic idea is that we put the ‘shopping’ into ‘window shopping,’ enabling a store to be open 24 hours instead of the typical 10 hours,” said Martin Mohr, creative director at TBWA Helsinki. “A retail store is all about service; a smartphone is all about service applications. It’s a no-brainer that they will merge.”

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