Retailers are bringing the best of online and mobile shopping to brick-and-mortar stores to give customers a fully-integrated experience – combining the best of all worlds.
“It’s about being where the shopper is, whether online or offline,” said Piers Fawkes, founder and editor-in-chief of PSFK, at the 2015 National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York. “Customers want to shop on their own terms.”
Five innovations offer a glimpse into what our shopping experience will be like in the future, though they’re already available at some retailers here in the U.S. or abroad, often in the testing phase.
“The omnichannel is very beneficial to consumers,” Chen Grazutis, a retail analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “Everything is available to you whether online or in store. Online and offline has come together. It’s helping the retailer but it’s also great for the customer.”
Here are some innovations that are changing the way we shop:
No More Buyer’s Remorse. Wouldn’t you love it if you could wear those sneakers for a few days to see if they really fit? This isn’t far in the future: GU, a Japanese apparel retailer, lets customers wear clothes for a day before deciding to purchase them or not.
“You can walk out of a store with clothes you just tried on,” said Scott Lachut, director of consulting at PSFK’s Labs, which provides insights on retail trends. And don’t feel bad if you decide against buying the item: The retailer uses the returned clothes on mannequins in the store.
Closer to home, cell phone carrier T-Mobile launched its “test drive” in June, where customers receive an iPhone 5 and unlimited nationwide service for seven days at no cost. “It’s like they allowed people to cheat on their current mobile carrier,” Lachut said.
Never Get Lost in a Department Store Again. Unless you frequent a department store on a regular basis, it’s often easy to get lost and frustrated when looking for a specific brand. It can get even worse when traveling abroad. Huge department store Galleries Lafayette in Paris recently launched an app that allows customers to plan their shopping trip ahead of time.
Simply select the brands you desire to visit – and the app creates a personalized route through the store based on your entries. The added bonus for the store: The app may also add a detour to a specific exhibition or may map the route so you’re forced to pass a certain area.
Tweet and Shop. Retailers used to see social media as a distraction to shopping – but if customers can now shop on social media, there’s nothing to fear anymore. Twitter added a buy button in September to start testing a new way to discover and shop on the social media site.
“This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun,” the company noted in September. “Users will get access to offers and merchandise they can’t get anywhere else and can act on them right in the Twitter apps for Android and iOS.”
Plan Ahead. You may be familiar with the concept of purchasing an item online and picking it up in a store. Now you can reserve an item online, search stores in your area to see if they have your size, and have 24 hours to go try it in a store, with no obligation to buy it. This is another way for shoppers to expand their research before making purchases. Banana Republic, Athleta and Gap are offering this option.
“Inventory has become more transparent to the customer,” said Lachut. In a similar way, all Supercuts stores are now offering a mobile app that allows customers to book a hair appointment while having the ability to check the real-time wait-time at various locations.
‘Smart’ Fitting Rooms. There’s no need to step out of the fitting room half-clothed anymore to look for a different size. Touch screens will assist you with everything you need – from checking whether a different style, color or size is in stock in the store to calling an actual person to bring you the next item you want to try.
Bloomingdale’s just installed wall-mounted iPads in the dressing rooms of a few select stores in the U.S. as part of a smart-fitting testing phase. The iPad can also connect to the company’s inventory-management systems and locate items throughout its multimillion-item inventory network.
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