Below are four examples of brands using technology to outperform in a turbulent environment.
Over the last decade, the rise of new technologies combined with changing consumer demands has increased the importance of the ‘Experiential’ in retail. Whether it is used to drive footfall to store, raise brand awareness or create customer loyalty most retailers are looking at new ways to create better customer ‘experiences’, particularly in stores.
From what we have seen this has largely fallen into 2 camps – larger retailers that have the resources to experiment with the latest technologies vs. those looking at a more scaled-down, nuanced approach to ‘experiential’.
If we take the first camp we have witnessed the likes of Nike and H&M experimenting with everything from AR and Immersive displays through to voice and image recognition. Nike’s flagship store in New York offers customers the opportunity to participate in various sports in-store whilst testing different Nike products. These immersive experiences are delivered up via digital screens, VR etc. Meanwhile their performance data is collected, later served up to the customer account with specific product recommendations. Just a short stroll away you will pass H&M’s magic mirror storefront. A voice from the screen will ask the customer to take a selfie utilising facial recognition, that can then be downloaded and shared via social media – right on point for a media obsessed society.
These brand experiences are often more about enhancing PR, then necessary creating customer-centric experiences with measured results. It is unlikely that even the largest brands could afford to roll these types of experiences out across their store estates. It does however signal to the wider retail environment and customer base that they are innovative and ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. Hats off to those willing to do these experiments, but in reality, these types of technologies are yet to become mainstream.
This brings us to the second camp – those retailers using subtler forms of experiential tech that focus on the key reasons why a customer may be driven to a store – customer service, product information/ availability, convenience and brand engagement. At Validify we work with UK / EU brands who, facing the challenges of a flagging high street, use our platform to find technology that can help them deliver on the above drivers.
Below are some great examples of retailers using technology that deliver a big impact and most importantly can be measured.
As a growing brand, Axel Arigato were struggling to engage and convert online customers. They turned to the ‘Go-instore’ technology that enables online customers to speak to in-store assistants via a live video stream. These assistants can show the products close-up, offer up additional information and provides an opportunity to cross/upsell. From a customer service perspective, it creates a personalised experience and the brand can fully sweat their store asset.
Launched across their larger UK stores, FC gave iPads to their sales associates so they could use it to get up-to-date product information. Powered by Mercaux’s ‘clientelling’ technology sales assistants were equipped with inventory knowledge and product suggestions, which enabled them to provide customers with styling and outfit recommendations – based on digital content from influencers, celebrities and brand fans. Customers better engaged with store assistants and assistants could provide a premium customer experience.
Lush will be the first UK brand to remove all its product packaging from its stores. Instead, the Lush App has built-in machine learning capabilities that can recognise every product in-store using image recognition. Based on this, customers can simply point the app at a product and retrieve all relevant information. An example of utilising technology to enhance the brand ethos around the environment and sustainability.
Working with technology from MishiPay – Leroy Merlin has trialled ‘cashier-less’ stores enabling customers to scan, pay and leave with an item without having to queue. As well as competing with the Amazon Go offer, it offers the ultimate in customer convenience.
What is interesting about all these examples is that the retailers have thought about the customer experience first and then sought the technology to enable the vision. The type of experiences they are looking at may not be as ‘big hitting’ as the larger brands but have a huge impact for both brand awareness and their bottom line.