The recession has shown the door to a number of large, established retailers - Woolworths being one among many.
But with instability comes opportunity. Forward-thinking retailers are using technology not to replace the human interaction of physical stores but enhance it. They’re re-inventing the bricks-and-mortar store.
Uniqlo’s 5th Avenue store in New York, for instance, uses large format displays (LFDs) to act as dynamic digital signage and show off the latest and greatest products, all controlled remotely from the company’s Japanese headquarters.
Similarly, Nordstrom, the American fashion retailer, co-created an app with their customers that helps shoppers choose the perfect sunglasses.
It’s about creating a more interactive, intuitive and dynamic buying experience for the customer. It’s theatre for the shopper.
The first thing they notice is the Goldilocks temperature, controlled by a modern, efficient air conditioning system.
Next are the multiple large LFDs, like Samsung’s 95-inch ME95C
, the world’s largest professional LED edge-lit display, with life-size models showcasing the season’s latest trends – the mannequin finally gets a makeover.
But they also offer a more intimate, personal touch. Shoppers tap their smartphone on an interactive screen upon arrival and are provided with a personalised map based on data about their past searches and purchases, highlighting relevant departments, showing related new products and listing what’s in stock. A nearby wireless printer allows them to seamlessly print off a hard copy of the tailored information.
Staff complement these interactions, using tablets as mobile point-of-sale systems and to answer customer queries on the spot; no more disappearing into the stock room.
It’s the best of both worlds – the convenience of online with the experience of in-store making a reality of ‘omnichannel’ retail.