Not that long ago, if I were to tell you that a plant store would make a video of their plants being delivered, and that their customers would watch it – even if it was in the middle of the night – you would have asked me one question: why?
Fast forward and here we are.
Recently, I had the thrill of being a guest of Carol Spieckerman on her podcast, “Spieckerman Speaks Retail.” We explored many of the massive changes taking place in the retail space, such as the role of the store itself and how that role is still in such flux. Another rich area was the ongoing, permanent effects of the past two years rolling into how technology is transforming the store. It all made for a lively talk.
Mostly, we explored how elements of the store have evolved right along with consumer adoption of technologies and how those technologies have changed how we all search, shop and buy.
Stores are moving from rows of uniform aisles piled high with inventory, to areas that facilitate a variety of interactivity. There are QR codes to bring up pertinent information about products, the store and/or the brand. AR allows for memorable brand interactions and a bit of fun combined with practicality as in, say, trying a rug in your space virtually before you buy it.
Customer information is expanding and shifting toward social with a more crowd-sourced feel. Products are reviewed and posted by users to be readily available for shoppers. Shopper pictures adorn clothing websites, replacing the previous highly retouched and unrealistic “perfect” product shots. Shoppers are streaming their experiences to allow for group decision making or more consultative interactions with the salespeople. And, yes, there are brands that broadcast an unboxing of full merchandise delivery, like plants, for those enthusiasts that want to be first to own.
Another aspect of rapid change is how stores are also now media networks of sorts. Given the proliferation of in-store screens, lots of high-traffic stores are developing ad networks where their own brand or brands of products they carry can broadcast messages that have a measurable effect on sales right at the point of decision.
"We explored many of the massive changes taking place in the retail space, such as the role of the store itself and how that role is still in such flux. Another rich area was the ongoing, permanent effects of the past two years rolling into how technology is transforming the store. "
Carol probed about the relationship between store-printed materials/signage and in-store technology as well, agreeing that it’s not a “one or the other” distinction. We talked through the complementary way they work best together. Print can carry more information by expanding to online via a QR code, which brings practically unlimited amounts of information to consumers. This mix of digital and physical interaction – Carol described as “phygital” – means the digital aspects can bring a high degree of interaction in-store with the brand itself, as well as its products. The printed materials play a lead role in facilitating the interaction through awareness and enablement with QR codes, wayfinding and offering key information in the moment.
The interview was a fun ride through the current twists and turns retail is undergoing, as hyper-accelerated tech adoption is forcing retailers to quickly up their game. Consumers are craving the surprise and delight of an experience over simply a summer sale that only engages them about a set of products. The store needs to fill multiple roles vs. just stock inventory.
We summarized that they must use a blend of all available tactics to create meaningful and memorable experiences that happen to make the transaction seamless and enjoyable. Some brands are making that look easy. And some not so much.
There will be brands that come through the pandemic/tech retail shift stronger. Others are in a cycle of catch-up. And some won’t make it at all.