There’s no denying the fact we now live in a one-click society, where consumers are used to the comfort of buying almost any product they want with a click of button, and have it delivered to their home or place of work within 24 hours.

Inevitably, this has put significant pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, whose core aim is to attract people to their physical stores. While this remains one of the major challenges for the retail sector, the good news is that there are several steps that high street retailers can take in order to digitise and prioritise their instore Customer Experience.

The importance of customer service in real-time

Traditionally, physical stores have always been good at recognising customer needs in real-time, so providing a tailored and personalised shopping experience has been relatively straightforward. However, what happens in a scenario when all the sales advisors are busy serving other customers? Retailers must ask themselves whether they are utilising their staff in the best possible way; are advisors bogged down with mundane tasks or are they in a good position to provide a positive all-round Customer Experience?

While it might not always seem essential to have sales advisors around at all times, this situation is easily comparable to an online experience where a user uses a search engine to look for a product. They might type in ‘white trousers’ and receive a list of generic non-personalised results. It’s likely they then end up clicking through various websites and look up different retailers to compare costs and other factors, and won’t benefit from a personalised experience which can be so important in closing a sale.

The advantage that physical stores have in this sense is that they can prevent the need for endless browsing, by offering customers what they want, when they want it, in real-time. By taking advantage of this potential, retailers can enhance the power of instore shopping.

In the flesh: Brick and mortar retail has an advantage over digital when it comes to providing a personalised experience

Augmenting reality

The good news is there are already plenty of technology solutions available for retailers to use to digitise their instore customer experience. In effect, this tech needs to help retailers ensure that their customers are engaged instore at all times, by simplifying their buying journey and helping sales advisors to deliver the best possible customer service.

For example, Sephora, a leading beauty retailer, has experimented with 3D augmented reality mirrors that simulate cosmetics on consumer’s face in real-time. This is a great way of deepening customer relationships and taking the shopping experience a step further. Augmented reality is still a developing technology, but this is just one example of how smart tech has the potential to create an immersive customer experience instore in real-time.

Intelligent guided selling

Choice overload is an issue for the modern shopper, whether they’re shopping online or instore, and often leaves them unsure of what to buy because of the variety of options and complexity of different products. At the same time, the variety of products has made many consumers more demanding and less responsive to adverts and promotions. Intelligent guided selling (IGS) technology can play a leading role in cutting through this complexity.

IGS can cut through the noise and filter products based on things like consumer interest, past buying behaviour or specific product preferences. By doing this, the technology can make tailored product recommendations in real-time, empowering sales associates to assist customers in the most efficient way possible.

This tech can be employed using readily accessible tools. For example, providing sales advisors at kiosks with smart touch screens or tablets enables them to carry out their usual role of engaging with customers, combined with the extra boost that something like IGS can provide. Being open to a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy can also be helpful here, as enabling sales advisors to quickly assist customers using their own smartphones or tablets can reduce the chances of customers consulting their own devices to gain more information on a product.

Digitise, personalise, maximise

Implementing any form of technology will require physical retailers to invest time into upgrading their existing systems and services, but it is a job worth doing in the long term. Those who are willing to be adaptable are the ones that are most likely to remain competitive.

Essentially, retailers need to identify their unique selling points and use them to their offering in a way that is different to other similar competitors in the market. This will allow them to create an instore range focused on quality, experience and relationships, something that online often can’t provide. Do this, and the future of the instore experience will be bright.

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