The Next Gen Store: 5 Things We Expect to See
Covid negatively impacted wholesale retail, leading many brands to begin to explore the world of DTC, or direct-to-consumer sales. This shift to DTC has changed the landscape of expectations customers have when shopping with your brand to more of an Amazon experience. They want fast, convenient, and safe interactions with your brand. So how does this translate back to brick and mortar?
The next generation of brick-and-mortar will be a reality sooner than we think, thanks to the advancements brought on by COVID-19 and changing consumer behaviors. Here are 5 things we expect to see in the next generation store.
1. Line Queueing
Customers hate lines. While this has been an age-old truth, it has become more of a pain point thanks to social distancing requirements, often forcing customers to wait outside of the store before entering to meet capacity requirements. This creates a less-than-ideal customer experience, especially for those looking to make a return or repair.
Line queueing will allow customers to be placed into specific lines to meet their needs. Once in the line, customers will be given a virtual number that will allow them to continue shopping or come back once their number has been called. This eliminates the need to have customers wait outside in the cold, all while promoting additional sales while they wait.
2. On-Site Tailoring Services & Customizations
Customers have learned to appreciate the convenience of online shopping, allowing them to easily purchase numerous sizes or variations of products to try on in the comfort of their own home and return their disliked items.
Taking this idea to the next level, in-store customizations will become a regular offering. Levi’s has begun to offer this service already, allowing customers to add embellishments or make alterations to their jeans in-store to take home the same day. This instant gratification of customization goes a step further than e-commerce currently allows for, creating the best possible customer experience.
3. Dynamic Inventory
Gone are the days where stores are stocking an excess of winter jackets in warm climates and swimsuits in the tundra. Dynamic inventory management has been a long time coming thanks to a copious amount of consumer data available from the POS. Instead of offering a set list of inventory in each of its stores, brands will shift to a smart model, offering customers sought after pieces.
For example, a store in Florida will only offer a few winter jacket options while a store in Pennsylvania will offer more. This smart allocation of inventory allows for a better bottom line as inventory isn’t sitting on shelves throughout the season, only to be severely marked down to move it postseason
4. VR and AR Experiences
With restrictions on fitting rooms becoming a regular occurrence in retail, many customers have had to adapt their shopping to expect to overbuy and return items after trying them on at home. To avoid this hit to retailers’ bottom lines, expect to see more VR and AR experiences throughout the store. Virtual changing rooms have become a more common occurrence, allowing customers to digitally try on clothing to see how it would look.
Another retailer experimenting with this technology is Helzberg Diamonds. The brand has incorporated the technology to allow customers to try on rings in different angles and lighting, allowing the customers to see their full inventory of rings which are not often available in the store itself. This marries the online experience of looking at rings and the in-store experience of trying them on together perfectly.
5. Customer Controlled Interactions
To some customers, overly assistive store associates are more of a nuisance than an aid. In a post-COVID world, customers are still leery to have excess interaction with other shoppers and associates when in stores, posing the question of what is the right amount of interaction?
Nike has taken this idea into consideration by creating a feature in their app that notifies store associates how much interaction a certain customer wants while shopping. This would allow someone looking for a certain piece of clothing to receive the aid they need while allowing the browsing shopper to be left alone. This will become a more commonplace trend as customers readjust to head back into stores after months of online-only shopping.
While we may not see the above innovations in-stores tomorrow, we should plan to see them entering our shopping flows in the near future. Shopping experiences will continue to marry in-store and online as we move forward in a digital-first world.
In the midst of these changes, however, it is important to keep communications consistent across all touchpoints with consumers. Learn more here.