4 Considerations When Building Your Connected Store

4 Considerations When Building Your Connected Store

Imagine your customers could communicate how they are feeling while browsing your physical retail store. What would they say?

“Where are all the sales staff? Do they really understand what I need?”

“I need to see the reviews on this product before buying.”

“Is this furniture really big enough for my whole family?”

“I can’t find my dress size.”

“I’m tired and I want a cold drink - I would try on another pair of pants if I could get an iced coffee right now…”

The question for retailers is not whether you have an App for your brand and interactive screens in your store. The question is whether your connected store provides answers to your customers’ questions.

What will help your customers have the smoothest and most memorable shopping experience? What will make it easy for them to make decisions?

There is no clear path to modernizing your retail store – but watching your customers, looking at metrics, analyzing the facts, and making utility (usefulness of technology) part of your solution will likely lead to innovative solutions and in-store experiences. That might need some forethought. Can you collect information through your online store? Can you gather in–store analytics? What are your customers looking at? Where do they spend their time? Do they check their phone while in your store? What do they do after leaving? Which customers are more likely to spend more time in your store? Why?

Answering these questions carefully has given some connected stores a competitive advantage, and put them ahead of the curve.

Ready to transform your retail space into a connected store? Forget screens. Start with discussion on these four touchpoints:

1: Is Your Physical Space best served for Physical Interaction with Products?

Target recently launched a space where customers could discover and interact with connected objects.

The goal? To demystify the technology, and give customers hands-on experience with it. The Internet of Things (IoT) still scares a lot of people; what does a connected fridge do? Is it difficult to lock the door with a voice activated device?

Target wanted to remove the barriers and give customers a playroom where they could discover IoT products without fear. Customers suddenly had access to connected beds, thermostats, fridges, all those items that they could watch in videos online, but couldn’t touch or interact with.

The “open house” space was built from scratch. It was designed for customers to play with product – never built for cash and carry, and thus had something of a museum-like feel, less like a store, and more like an interactive showroom.

2: What will Bridge the Gap Between Your Digital and Physical Touch points?

Some of the most successful and innovative connected store solutions also effectively tie in the design and experience at the connected store with the online store and digital ecosystem.

When an online customer uses the web site, a real stylists helps select products. Personalized fashion stylist brand Frank and Oak has uses data it collects through its ecommerce platform to make physical store customer service smarter. Armed with personalized information on customers collected online, staff are not just “customer service” anymore, they are now “stylists” that offer a personalized shopping experience, further enhancing the brand identity, and offering better services.

By making the online and in-store experiences interactive and beneficial, Frank and Oak is on its way to building a beautiful branded ecosystem that responds to customers’ needs.

3: How will your connected store enhance the Retail Customer Experience?

One of the biggest advantages of a physical store in fashion is that the customer can try garments on.

However, the downside is that searching and trying on products in a physical space can be frustrating and exhausting, because the customer has no way of knowing if their size is back on the rack, or if the dress comes in a brighter color. It requires stamina and patience, both in short supply when it comes to millennium shoppers.

Luxury brand Rebecca Minkoff sells a luxury fashion line for women; what’s more, the brand offers an unprecedented in-store experience that carries forward from a shopper’s online profile, for a more personal, customized experience.

Upon check-in at the store, customers can interact and order items with a life-size interactive mirror on the wall, then select “send to my room” to initiate a one-on-one styling session. They can also order a glass of champagne or other drink to their fitting room, if desired.

When the items arrive at the fitting room, RFID technology immediately recognizes them and displays other sizes and colours available in the store, available through one click on the mirror touch screen.

Wondering if that dress will look good at night? Request a change in ambience in the fitting room through the mirror touch screen.

4: Do you need to re-think your investment in retail floor space?

Dollar for dollar, does your physical store floor space make sense?

One of the most exciting trends we’re seeing is the dawning of the “mini boutique” or, in the case of cosmetics giant Sephora, the launch of many small boutique “Flash Stores” around the world they cleverly describe as “mini Beautic”. (Beau is the French world for “beautiful.”)

Traditionally a 4,000 square foot retailer, Sephora is bridging physical and digital by opening a multitude of smaller boutiques around the world at about 1,000 square feet that house a selection of their most popular products, and in-store touch-screen access to a digital catalogue of more than 14,000 products. Users can place testers on the digital screen for more information, and instantly add them to their digital basket, for a personalized experience.

Customers make a single payment for both physical and digital purchases they make while in the store, and can choose to have items shipped to their home or decide to pick them up at the Flash Store at a later time.

It’s the perfect solution to expanding the Sephora brand retail presence, minimizing floor space costs, and offering the full Sephora line of product.

Make Connections that Count

Being “connected” is not the be all and end all of a connected store. The real challenge is making connections with customers that count, and for that, retailers have to become willing to observe, try new things, experiment, and continually improve.

Before buying a load of touchscreens, think about what you want to achieve and how you could truly better interact with your customers, both online and in-store with current technologies.

After all… a store that doesn’t connect effectively with customers simply can’t be called a “connected store.”

Connections that last result from meaningful, helpful, and positive experiences.