A CHANGING WORLD

A CHANGING WORLD

Virtual Reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence, new technologies and new marketing strategies available to retailers.

What are the future retail scenarios?

NO, no no no no, I don’t want to distress you further with the post-Covid economic situation, let alone read the crystal ball predicting the future, because, as we have seen, we are in a globally precarious world and the cards can shuffle at supersonic speed.

With this article I wanted to share with you some concepts that are so much talked about today, but which often remain too abstract and difficult to understand in practice.

Customer experience, brand experience, brand reputation.

And still customer satisfaction, brand awareness, bra…

Okay, okay, I’ll stop or your blood pressure will go up.

How many times have you felt tightened your mind trying to understand how to implement all these concepts in your business, often explained and re-explained in books, articles, links, sites, so that in a while ‘we will find them also advertised in the flyers of takeaway pizza!

But how can you really put all these cool concepts into practice, that make a sound scene when you talk about them, but then only few really know how to implement them in concrete strategies?

The first thing that comes to mind when I find myself reading about these topics is: give us some practical examples!

For me it has always been the only way to understand concepts that are too abstract, because let’s remember that theory is one thing and the practical aspect is another.

The first thing that comes to mind when I find myself reading about these topics is: give us some practical examples!

For me it has always been the only way to understand concepts that are too abstract, because let’s remember that theory is one thing and the practical aspect is another.

For me a book was really enlightening “Retail isn’t dead” by Matthias Spanke.

An excursus of case histories that opens up brilliant worlds and practical applications of the concepts mentioned above.

Case histories that provide an understandable application of new technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence closely related to brand and customer experience concepts.

But let’s get right to the heart of the matter!

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

What is really the shopping experience?

Is it the pleasure the customer gets from shopping in your store? Or perhaps the immersion in a parallel reality as soon as he walks through the front door? Or maybe the memory that remains once they leave the store?

The sensations, emotions and perceptions that the customer feels, from the moment he walks through the front door of your store until he leaves it, are fundamental and it will be a well coordinated plan of marketing, visual merchandising and architecture that today will make a store, a successful one.

But what really should motivate me to come to the store to shop?

Why should I leave the comfort of home to make a purchase that with a click would allow me to receive what I want directly at home in a very short time?

How to transfer concepts, emotions, services and advantages offered by the online within the stores?

These are the questions that have attracted the attention of all marketers in the world, retailers and visual merchandisers.

But then how can we turn the shop into an attractive space where the customer chooses to come with pleasure?

What are the services that online will never be able to offer compared to the physical store?

How do I approach new customers who are not yet part of my world?

How can I entertain, inform and sell at the same time?

 

Good, let me answer these questions with clear practical examples.

Nike

In the flagship store in Soho – NY the store turns into a real testing ground, but not in a broad sense, just in a practical sense!

Nike has recreated in the shops its own environments in which its customers generally use its product. At Nike store in NY you’re not just going to try on shoes, you’re going to have a unique experience.

Are you looking for the perfect pair of soccer shoes for you? Then why not try them on a field of artificial turf directly in the shop? Or maybe you’re looking for your next running shoes? Then have fun testing them on a treadmill, maybe in front of a big screen simulating an outdoor run in Central Park, or if you don’t like it you can always choose Battery Park!

But maybe you are passionate about basketball and then again Nike will allow you to go wild on an indoor basketball court, to immediately fall in love with your next pair of Nike.

Okay okay, I already know that now you’re going to tell me: “yes okay everything beautiful, but I’m not Nike!”

Now my nose is going to bleed!

Sure, maybe you won’t be called Nike and probably you won’t have the same financial, technical and strategic availability, but it’s important to look at the greats to get out of the box, to understand how to make an original service to the customer and encourage him to come back, this is what we talk about when looking for new solutions for the customer experience!

There are not few large sportswear chains that could implement small courses, characterized by different materials, typical of the fields where you usually train, or is it wrong? But no one has ever thought about it, Nike has.

So why not let yourself be inspired?

John Lewis & Partners

It’s a luxury department store chain in London.

The store’s bed/sleeping products department has been converted into a pop-up store, to allow customers to relax and take a nap right in the store, to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and allow them to actually test the mattress they were considering buying.

This initiative lasted only two days, but it was a great success, all the two-hour relaxation sessions, at a cost of £15, which had to be booked online in advance, were sold out in a very short time.

On arrival customers were provided with a bathrobe, slippers, a mask and earphones, so they could really relax while enjoying a professional massage or a tour of the Maldives, thanks to the glasses that take advantage of virtual reality.

This, once again shows how an in-store experience, absolutely not replicable online, can become a great starting point for activities to be developed directly in the store, to push the customer to come and visit you, emotionally tied to the brand, thanks to the beautiful experience made, not necessarily linked to the immediate purchase of a good.

Canada Goose

Canada Goose has also created a simple but very interesting trick to boost sales of its coats and what better technique than allowing the customer to test the product directly at winter temperatures?
Here is the “Cold room”, a room where the temperature is brought to -27°, to allow to test the products even in hot places or in periods of the year characterized by hot temperatures. I find this idea really brilliant!

Tiffany

In the iconic Fifth Avenue store, the original location of the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, the brand has introduced a bar where, for $29, customers can immerse themselves in the fantastic luxurious atmosphere and enjoy moments of conviviality.

Tiffany, like all retailers, has studied the spaces, fittings and colors from a strategic point of view, in order to give the customer a pleasant, welcoming and stimulating setting, but also “social friendly”, perfect for captivating photos to post on social networks.

Not that Tiffany needed further publicity is clear, but it was careful to approach those who, perhaps momentarily, can’t afford a diamond ring or precious porcelain, but one day they could easily be part of the brand’s target group.

By immersing the customer in an exclusive atmosphere, Tiffany allows anyone to feel special for the duration of a breakfast, because after all, especially luxury brands, this is what they offer, allure, fashion, appearance and belonging.

As you can see in these case histories, which include both paid and free experiences, the creativity and marketing strategy has always been innovative and simple, but also of great emotional impact; moreover, it has skillfully integrated new technologies and winning ideas in a perspective closely linked to the customer experience.

AUGMENTED REALITY

We often confuse augmented reality with virtual reality and vice versa, because surely for many of us the difference is not so clear.

I will try to bring practical examples to your attention, to explain these two fantastic technologies that are increasingly integrated in retail today.

Augmented reality (AR) is the integration of digital content into the real environment in which we live. Do you remember the Pokemon GO app? With the help of our mobile phone we had to search for Pokemon scattered all over the city.

So in this case we continue to live our reality, but it will be implemented with digital content. We will still be able to distinguish the two dimensions at any time.

Charlotte Tilbury

Charlotte Tilbury of London is a very successful business born from a compelling story of a make-up artist who founded her makeup brand.

Charlotte has innovated the world of make-up not only through her product and a strong digital presence, thanks to her tutorials, but especially by exploiting the potential of augmented reality in her stores with the installation of “magic mirrors”.

In Charlotte Tilbury stores customers can book a 45-minute session, during which they can try out virtually all the brand’s products and see them immediately applied to their face, thanks to magic mirrors, which exploit AR technology.

Isn’t that brilliant?

And if you’re undecided and don’t know which look to choose? Simple, the system will select for you the proposal that best suits your face!

Can you imagine the infinite possibilities that such a technology can offer you?

In addition to the exceptional service that customers can enjoy, you can entertain them and allow them to live a unique experience and share it online. You can also:

  • Customize the offer and range of products easily and quickly, even in all stores around the world.
  • Create promotional campaigns, also personalized
  • Track your customers’ choices, record them and analyze purchasing behavior
  • Inform and direct the customer in store, indicating the exact location of the product he has just decided to buy, thanks to the integrated GPS technology
  • Ensuring the highest hygiene standards and not feeding any product waste, two key aspects of the business, especially at a time like this one.

VIRTUAL REALITY

Virtual reality (VR), on the other hand, is a totally artificial reality in which the senses can no longer perceive what is real and what is not. To use it, it will be indispensable to equip oneself with special devices.

Do you know the viewers? Those big gadgets halfway between a helmet and a pair of glasses? That’s them.

In virtual reality you will be catapulted into a parallel world, to look around you won’t need to use the lever of a joypad, but just do the most natural thing in the world: turn your head.

Anyway the iteration with the artificial environment by the user is limited in the VR, because you will always need particular devices to interact in the virtual dimension.

Lowe’s

This technology is often used to allow the consumer to virtually try something that is not available immediately.

One example of this is the Lowe’s store, the American do-it-yourself giant.

In these stores they have set up workshops to help customers learn how to make their projects. To make the use of some products truthful, they put VR’s technology in the store. This way, for example, you can virtually try out the lawnmower you would like to buy. How?

Thanks to a device, equipped with a customized weight and vibration control system, you can simulate the use of the lawnmower, as if you were in your backyard.

You can then receive more specific advice from your sales staff to make the purchase process easier.

These two technologies go hand in hand with the concept of artificial intelligence, which I will briefly mention to you, to avoid fainting and loss of attention!

 

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a technology that simulates the human brain, is based on algorithms capable of learning from experience and is basically something immaterial, working “behind the scenes”.

We all know that every choice, search, purchase, visit or information sought online is profiled, right?

What does that mean?

That everything, absolutely everything you do on your PC, mobile phone or tablet is recorded and processed to offer AI data on which to work, and then offer you services and products related to your tastes and needs.

AI can process an impressive amount of data in a very short time, so it can anticipate demand, market price trends and even consumer needs.

You can therefore imagine how marketing today uses this technology for every strategic choice.

AI has so many applications that I will hardly be able to summarize in a chapter, but I want you to understand that the direction of all future businesses will not be able to disregard this new technology. Who will be the first to take advantage of its features, will certainly be able to secure a significant competitive advantage over competitors.

H&M

H&M has solved big unsold problems thanks to AI. Through the implementation of this technology it has been able to optimize the supply of every single store in the chain, customizing the product supplied according to the real specific requirements of the local market and not according to standardized master orders for all stores.

AI works with real data, not with human suppositions maybe linked to data of the past years. This has translated into considerable efficiency gains and money savings.

Remember that even a simple interactive screen takes advantage of AI technology; you’ve certainly seen them in one of the many clothing stores maybe.

But how do they suggest products that are more suitable for you? These devices are equipped with facial recognition technology (you know they’re the future, right?), they can capture a lot of data just by analyzing your face.

They can understand your sex, age, mood, whether you’ve already been to the store and if so, what you bought, etc. … Cross-referencing data with the season, the weather conditions at the time and many other parameters, the device can offer you suggestions on products in the store, allow you to receive personalized discounts, etc. …

This technology is starting to spread a lot, it is not inaccessible and it could be a great cue for you to capture the attention of your customers, make them curious, have fun, while you can instead start to analyze more specifically who they are what they really want.

 

APP

To close the topic new technologies, I’d like to quickly address the App topic as well.

Who knows how many you will have downloaded on your mobile phone and ok, surely you will use less than half of them, but what I want to bring to your attention today is the intrinsic potential of this tool.

If we have to differentiate ourselves from the competition we have to weigh up and at least know all the tools within our reach, right?

Do you have any idea how many times each person touches the phone? More than 2,000!!!! Unlock it at least 80 times a day.

More than half of the people who use retail apps use them right when they’re in the store, so what better opportunity to work on the famous shopping experience?

How many advantages could you take advantage of being able to connect with your customer even when they’re not physically in the store?

With a retail app you could:

  • Give detailed information and suggestions about your products
  • Allow the customer to evaluate your products and review them
  • Create a community
  • Vehicleize personalized promotions to users, both when they are in the store and when they are at home
  • Help customers in the in-store purchasing process, directing them to the shelf of the product they are looking for, thanks to GPS technology
  • Facilitate the payment of the products, speeding up the purchase process thanks to the payment via App
  • Collect a very important amount of data about your customers’ purchasing behaviour, personal data and many others that will be strategic for your decision making, if wisely collected, translated and interpreted into strategies.

7Fresh

7Fresh is a Chinese food supermarket that, after a huge food scandal that has affected the whole country, has decided to be transparent with customers and offer as much information as possible about the products sold, both packaged and fresh (you can also directly consume fresh meals inside the supermarket).

Thanks to their App and to the integration of RFID radio frequency technology (another very interesting technology that I’ll push you to deepen), 7Fresh allows the customer to scan the product through the App of the mobile phone and so read all the information about it,: price, origin, nutritional table, reviews of other consumers etc. … This will be possible both for packaged and fresh products, even if only for an apple taken at the counter!

I will not dwell on the self checkout that the App allows you to do, but it goes without saying that the payment phase is another delicate moment for the purchase process, on which all retailers are working to speed up this process and make the customer autonomous during the payment phase.

 

Well, that’s the end of it!

I hope I’m not alone and that I was able to take you to the end of my article without trauma.

The excursus of case histories that I wanted to bring to your attention, I’m sure they will give you some hints to extrapolate innovative ideas for your business and to think a little out of the chorus.

I realize that not all the applications and advantages of new technologies can be immediately understandable, but I hope that these simple and practical examples may have at least stimulated your curiosity.

Good luck!

 

Monica Minervini

Visual Merchandiser with 15years of experience. Global business vision, long experience in fashion, accessories and design, research, training courses and passion on service of who want to build a strong brand reputation.

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