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Turning the Retail Store into a High-Octane Digital Experience

Digital innovations have upended many assumptions about the art of buying and selling. But the brick-and-mortar retail store is far from extinct. And while digital technologies continue to disrupt traditional business models, they also present retailers with exciting opportunities to make their stores more immersive, interactive, and, well, digital.

Recently, I had the privilege of discussing the future of the retail store with Doug Stephens, one of the world’s foremost retail industry experts and author of the book, The Retail Revival: Reimagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism. Listen to the full interview here.

As Doug describes it, “media is becoming the store and the store in essence is becoming media.” In short, he argues that the store itself has to embrace many of the capabilities and services that have made online retailers so successful, while retaining and enhancing some of the advantages of the physical retail experience. The store should become a “high-octane experience,” as Doug puts it.

Cisco_RetailStoreHighOctane_5.16.14

I wholeheartedly agree. In the Internet of Everything (IoE) era, an explosion of new connections is driving new sources of value. And the physical retail store can capture these new sources of value — just as their online counterparts have.

The key lies in blending the two experiences in a seamless manner.

As in-store consumers, we expect to interact with a product viscerally in a physical retail setting; online we enjoy access to rich product content. Combining the two will go far to engage and convert consumers while cementing brand loyalty.

Here are a few of the ways in which retailers are creating new digital in-store experiences:

  • Data analytics present a precise picture of an individual shopper, their online research and shopping history, and their real-time, in-store browsing, as tracked through their smart device and/or in-store video.
  • Wi-Fi and mobile technologies enable new connections during each step of the shopping journey, offering real-time prompts, expert advice, and incentives to “seal the deal.”
  • RFID tags and other sensors — combined with data analytics — provide precise tracking of products and inventory and enable such in-store experiences as “magic mirrors” and digital signage. These utilize detailed information on individual shopper behavior and buying history to transform the real-time experience.

Doug and I agree that, moving forward, it will be essential for retailers to gain the trust of consumers. If they are to be tracked in-store and engaged in real time, customers will need to feel confident that retailers are fully transparent throughout the shopping journey.

Surveys show that consumers have their doubts about sharing data. But when trust is established and clear benefits and value are established, they are willing to op-in. In effect, the nature of the exchange has to be clear, and education is crucial. Then, the full power of merging digital technology with the brick-and-mortar world will be evident.

The end result, I believe, is a win-win for retailers and customers alike.

But the key for retailers is to lead not follow. Waiting to see what other retailers are doing is not an option. Through data and analytics, they can get to know their customers better than ever. And by knowing their wants and desires, create a digital in-store experience that is more exciting than ever before.

For more on innovation in retailing check out our new BizWise video to learn how one mall owner has transformed relationships with shoppers using an omni-channel approach.

Future of Mobility Podcast Series: Turning the Retail Store into a High-Octane Digital Experience from Cisco Business Insights

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