E-commerce was already well established, but with physical fashion retail stores in many countries effectively closed for much of the last year, consumers’ reliance on online as a channel has never been higher.
Even those consumers who would normally prefer to shop in stores have been driven online by necessity. This will inevitably lead to a change in shopper behaviour. How marked, and how permanent, this change is remains to be seen. But it’s clear that fashion retailers looking to drive footfall back into their stores will need to raise their game.
Here we’ll examine some examples of how bringing the online experience in-store can help retailers deliver differentiated experiences for both the savvy digital shopper and the more recent converts.
Bring the value of online in-store & vice versa
If the high street is to thrive again, then retailers need to make online an additive experience to in-store shopping, rather than an alternative experience.
For example, consumers shopping online appreciate the sophisticated search functionality, detailed product information and the extensive range and availability of online inventories. But equally, the ability to touch, feel and engage with a product can only be found in-store and is especially important for clothes retailers.
But why should consumers be forced to choose? Retailers must take the sophistication and flexibility of e-commerce and deliver that to consumers in the physical store. Various initiatives and technologies can help retailers to achieve this blend of the physical and digital and create that online experience in-store.
Not available in blue? No problem. Order for delivery, while in-store
One of the drawbacks of the physical store for consumers is that stock availability at an individual store level can sometimes be very limited when compared to online. Having lured them back in-store, avoiding walkouts is crucial.
One way to circumvent that issue is to enable shoppers to interact with the product in-store, but to immediately and easily order online if their desired size, colour, or product variant isn’t available at that location.
A good example of how this can work is for a retailer to add a scanning capability to the search bar on the website for consumers. So if the desired item isn’t available in their size in blue in the store, the shopper can quickly and easily scan the product’s barcode on the tag through a mobile browser on their smartphone.
Giving consumers this capability will take them directly to the relevant product detail page on the e-commerce site (no need to type a name or browse for the right item), and then add it to their basket calling on the more extensive online inventory. Then the consumer can then simply arrange for home delivery or collection at another time/location, and check out before they have even left the store. And the retailer sees an increase in conversions across channels.
This is all achieved from a mobile website, with no requirement for the customer to download an app, which makes it far more accessible to a much wider consumer audience. See how easy it is to add scanning to your website.
So rather than the customer walking away empty handed due to a stock out (and losing the business to a competitor), in this specific example the sale is saved by bringing the best of on and offline shopping together.
This is a real game-changer for fashion retailers who have had the dual challenges of handling supply chain disruptions in some locations, then overstock in others. Offering this type of omnichannel experience helps to leverage stock availability across locations to save potentially lost sales and reduce overstock costs. And you don’t need to rely on customers having your mobile app.
Put essential product information in your customers’ hands
Another trend that we have seen at Scandit is that retailers are looking at new ways to surface product information and reviews to the consumer, in a quick and easy fashion when they are in the store. This is one area where you can add significant value to consumer mobile shopping apps and drive engagement with shoppers.
Computer vision makes it possible for consumers to use their own mobile devices to scan product barcodes and then for the relevant data to be surfaced straight back to their device screen with augmented reality overlays to compare products and make informed choices. This could be reviews, product information about the brand or sustainability, or related product suggestions to complete the outfit.
Similarly, using computer vision technology, consumers are able to scan product barcodes to surface results in AR which match certain search criteria. This enables the very familiar and powerful ‘faceted search’ normally found online to be carried out in-store, with products being surfaced in a very intuitive and engaging way with AR.
Let computer vision browse for you and it’s easy to grab the specific product you want. This can make their in-store experience much more efficient, whilst driving more sales for the retailer.
Blend the physical digital for the ultimate in-store experience
These are just a few examples of how retailers are starting to enhance the in-store digital experience.
The common thread is that it’s the humble barcode that provides the ‘glue’ to bring the physical and digital worlds together in-store. Computer vision based data capture when combined with augmented reality, is a simple, effective way to facilitate a blurring of the lines between online and in-store.
And the retailers who choose to fully embrace this now have a real chance to benefit from the increased loyalty and market share that first-mover advantage can bring. Talk to us to learn more.