The main focus for NRF 2020 was to tackle the growing challenge of the physical store and the role stores will need to play in the future of retail. This boiled down to key two points; how retailers can use tech to drive shoppers in-store and how the relationship with consumers needs to evolve, to change in-store experiences.
The role of the store is changing. Although the store may not be where purchases take place anymore, the store can still play an important role. Take Sephora for example, on the ‘Driving Commerce Through Content: How Industry Leaders are Embracing the Power of Social Commerce’ panel, Amy Eschliman, Senior Advisor for Client Engagement explained that because of the nature of beauty products, they often need to be seen and experienced in person. Sephora has been using Facebook’s Messenger to enable shoppers to make bookings in-store and has seen an uplift in-store footfall and a drop in the rate of no-shows. Eschliman attributes this to how frictionless the booking experience is.
And social media isn’t the only way retailers have been able to encourage shoppers in-store.
Carla Li, Global Head of Product for Sponsorship/Business Processes at Niantic (the creators of Pokemon Go and other AR games) joined the ‘Gen Z and the Experience Economy: Experience Lifecycle Management (ELM) for Growth’ panel and discussed how the bringing real-world gaming to the store can drive footfall and revenue lift at retailers, restaurants and malls. As this type of mobile-led entertainment is proving popular amongst the digitally empowered Gen Z of today, we can expect that more of these sort of partnerships will be leveraged to drive shoppers in-store.
Kohl’s CEO, Michelle Gass, explained another way the 90-year-old business is gaining a new younger audience in its stores – Kohl’s is now allowing people to return Amazon purchases to their stores. Through techniques like this, physical stores can adapt and continue to stay relevant.
Find out more about how apps can be used as a tool to close the divide between digital and physical commerce in our handy omnichannel datasheet.
CEO and Co-Founder of Rent the Runway, Jennifer Hyman, argued on the ‘Winning the Experience Economy: How to Raise the Bar in a World of Raised Expectations’ panel that the relationship with customers needs to change. Retailers should focus on being honest with their customers rather than promising perfection. In this way, Rent the Runway has been transparent about why customers orders were delayed and customers actually became more trusting and loyal to the brand.
‘There are times in the future when we innovate on the behalf of our customers and fail. But what we are promising is transparency and a commitment to always do the right thing on behalf of our customers.’Jennifer Hymann, CEO & CO-Founder, Rent the Runway
NRF 2020 Keynote Speaker and CEO of Starbucks, Kevin Johnson, explained how customer/staff interactions could change in-store. Through the introduction of AI into Starbucks stores, the business aims to free up barista’s time to communicate and interact with customers. One example Johnson gave was if baristas had microphones that could listen to customers orders and record them on their POS system then baristas are free to make eye contact with customers making the experience more conversational and enhancing human interactions. This sort of innovation across any retail business changes the current in-store shopping dynamic, making in-store shopping about the experience and not just the transaction.
“We are also finding new ways to use technology and data to enhance human connection”Kevin Johnson, CEO at Starbucks
If the store is to survive, retailers need to streamline and perfect the logistics of maintaining the right levels of stock, much like how Poq client Belk is embracing AI in order to master inventory management. Tim Carney, VP, Allocation and Replenishment at Belk explained at NRF 2020 that it’s AI system has integrated machine learning into its ordering, replenishment and allocation systems and measures the demand for specific sizes by store, doing most of the heavy lifting for the Belk team.
In order to make sure efforts to drive shoppers in-store aren’t wasted, retailer’s will need to implement a combination of changing how they interact and communicate with customers in-store and make back-end logistical improvements to ensure they can service customers with the products they want.
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