How do your stores match-up on the digital tool checklist? Our three main buckets

The retail innovators have been making big investments into new consumer experiences delivered at scale using digital tools. Stores are now becoming part of omnichannel in significant ways in some cases. New endless aisle product exploration screens are popping up. Interesting projects are now starting to hit the big flagships and new concepts stores. Where is your organization on this journey? We put together a checklist of what we see as the main buckets for features and capabilities that can be delivered. See where your business matches-up.

Today, walking into retail, people expect the ability to continue a shopping journey they began digitally. Or they expect to be able to begin one and finish it later. In any case, something fluid. The store is no longer the stage for the beginning, the middle and end of a shopping experience. It could be one part of it, or two or all three. But, no matter what part it plays ­– it needs to be prepared for each, seamlessly.

Digital tools are an essential part of that. They help customers find and explore relevant products quickly, and let them buy even quicker. They can interact with mobile phones – letting customers bring in and continue shopping journeys in real-time, or use them to finish shopping after leaving the store.

It’s not unlike what great salespeople do – but unlike them – it delivers that experience at a global scale across owned and partner locations, at all times.

Sure, we hear a lot of comments about how going digital for the sake of going digital is just adding clutter and noise to the experience. Fair enough, like with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. See our thoughts about whether or not digital takeaways from a store be worth more than the actual sale of a product (here). Either way you look at it though, some digital tools are essential and unavoidable.

Digital tools are the backbone of the future store experiences  There are three main categories to group them by. Let’s call them the basics, the best practices, and the next wave. They look something like this:

1.    The Basics have been in stores for years. A store without any of these would seem silent and feel pretty empty. People are accustomed to stimulation in retail environments. In general, these are not expensive items to add into the store, and they can certainly be managed from a cloud portal easily.  Click and collect has been a big challenge for retailers to get up and running efficiently. Though, when done right, it’s an excellent way to catch sales and bring people into the store for upsell and cross-sell opportunities.  2.    The Best Practice items are appearing in bits and pieces across the more adventurous brands and retailers. They are seeking some competitive advantage as well as trying to make the overall shopping experience easier and more entertaining.  It makes sense that as brands get bigger it becomes more time consuming for customers to absorb an entire product line instantly. As a result, they need more product exploration tools to get them from getting lost or feeling overwhelmed. The more time customers invest in learning about range and products, the more engaged and likelier they are to buy, and buy again. But essentially, they need to feel in control of it. 3.    The Next Wave items are the “cool” ones. The ones truly pushing the store experience into the digital realm. As these tools gain prominence and, eventually, ubiquity, they’ve triggered some growing pains within some organisations. Most commonly taking the shape of technically-minded ecomm teams and aesthetically-minded store designers feeling at odds over the layout of shop floors.   All arguments are valid, but at the end of the day, everyone realizes that technology’s objective is to make stores smarter and more capable – and that can’t be ignored.  Digital tools will enable a whole range of next generation consumer experiences where digital and physical actually complement each other. It’s what the customer wants; ­ and it doesn’t have to look bad either. The other exciting opportunity Next Wave tools bring to stores is the ability to do just as much, if not more, in a smaller physical space (check out Sephora Flash 3.0). Smaller stores can cost less and drive bigger revenues to more loyal customers at the same time. One of the most interesting examples of a future store now, is the Tommy Hilfiger store in Regents Street in London. It has all the basics, and most of the best practices covered. They also have RFID on products, so shoppers can bring items to digital units and immediately get more info or place an e-comm orders if their size is out. The store is one-of-a-kind right now, but it’s possible to recreate similar experiences in small sites too. Here's also a cool video showing off their B2B showroom. After all, thinking big doesn’t implicitly mean big spaces. It could just be giving the consumers a big and strong feeling about the brand.

1.    The Basics have been in stores for years. A store without any of these would seem silent and feel pretty empty. People are accustomed to stimulation in retail environments. In general, these are not expensive items to add into the store, and they can certainly be managed from a cloud portal easily. 

Click and collect has been a big challenge for retailers to get up and running efficiently. Though, when done right, it’s an excellent way to catch sales and bring people into the store for upsell and cross-sell opportunities. 

2.    The Best Practice items are appearing in bits and pieces across the more adventurous brands and retailers. They are seeking some competitive advantage as well as trying to make the overall shopping experience easier and more entertaining. 

It makes sense that as brands get bigger it becomes more time consuming for customers to absorb an entire product line instantly. As a result, they need more product exploration tools to get them from getting lost or feeling overwhelmed. The more time customers invest in learning about range and products, the more engaged and likelier they are to buy, and buy again. But essentially, they need to feel in control of it.

3.    The Next Wave items are the “cool” ones. The ones truly pushing the store experience into the digital realm.

As these tools gain prominence and, eventually, ubiquity, they’ve triggered some growing pains within some organisations. Most commonly taking the shape of technically-minded ecomm teams and aesthetically-minded store designers feeling at odds over the layout of shop floors.  

All arguments are valid, but at the end of the day, everyone realizes that technology’s objective is to make stores smarter and more capable – and that can’t be ignored.  Digital tools will enable a whole range of next generation consumer experiences where digital and physical actually complement each other. It’s what the customer wants; ­ and it doesn’t have to look bad either.

The other exciting opportunity Next Wave tools bring to stores is the ability to do just as much, if not more, in a smaller physical space (check out Sephora Flash 3.0). Smaller stores can cost less and drive bigger revenues to more loyal customers at the same time.

One of the most interesting examples of a future store now, is the Tommy Hilfiger store in Regents Street in London. It has all the basics, and most of the best practices covered. They also have RFID on products, so shoppers can bring items to digital units and immediately get more info or place an e-comm orders if their size is out. The store is one-of-a-kind right now, but it’s possible to recreate similar experiences in small sites too. Here's also a cool video showing off their B2B showroom.

After all, thinking big doesn’t implicitly mean big spaces. It could just be giving the consumers a big and strong feeling about the brand.