Just like video killed the radio star, digital killed the doorbuster deals.
Waking up at 3:00 am to stand in line outside of Walmart is no longer the only way to get a good deal on Black Friday. Yes, I know that there are still a few crazy people will do anything for a chance at a $100 laptop or a $300 HDTV, but for the purpose of this blog post we’ll put that circus act on the side.
Instead, we’re going to explore how “digital” has transformed the single busiest shopping day of the year into a shopping “season” of recurring 1-day-only sales and how brick and mortar retailers are making people who hate shopping to love it.
If you’re like me you now do most or nearly all of your holiday shopping online. On the one day per year that I actually go to the mall it’s to take my kids to see Santa. Over the past few years everything has changed:
- The line to see Santa, which used to be an hour, is now 10 minutes
- Parking lots are nearly empty
- The corridors are quiet
- Major anchor stores are closing
- The chaos is gone
In fact, it’s actually pretty darn pleasant! Unless, of course, you’re one of the retailers trying to figure out how to stay in business as Amazon eats your lunch. Now the only time the mall gets busy is December 22-24. That’s precisely when shoppers fall inside of Amazon’s two day shipping window, when the last minute Christmas shoppers (I’m looking at you, dads of America) realize they have no choice but to abandon online shopping, get in their cars and rush to the mall.
The unfortunate reality for brick-and-mortar retail stores today is that it’s nearly always easier and less expensive to make more informed purchasing decision online. So how can these retailers use their physical stores to reverse (or slow) this online-only trend?
Retailers are learning through customer data and analytics that shoppers are gravitating toward shopping experiences over products. Consumers expect these experiences to be highly personalized. They also realize products themselves are, well, just products – you can get them anywhere.
Let’s examine a few ways retailers are putting digital technologies in their physical stores to create differentiated and personalized experiences that can’t be replicated in online-only storefronts:
- Retailers such as Macy’s are responding to the disruption not by closing stores (well, some), but by installing app-enabled augmented reality and virtual reality in their stores, as outlined in this Fashion Network article, including virtual mirror kiosks for trying beauty products. They even introduced a partnership with Facebook to showcase e-commerce brands in physical shopping spaces.
- Target, Walmart and others now have mobile app features to check inventory at your local stores and see the pricing and precise in-store location where specific products can be found. No more, “I drove all the way here and they don’t have my size.” Walmart’s app will even lead customers from their current locations to the correct aisle and specific shelf.
- Big box stores are introducing tools to help you find the right associate when you need them. No more interrupting a store associate who is busy helping someone else.
- Nike has an app that provides Nike members with special unlocks when shopping in-store, such as a free month of workout classes through ClassPass, as well as real-time in-store product availability. Shoppers can even select “try on” from the app and a store associate will be notified to get the proper shoes from the back. The shopper receives a notification, “we’re grabbing your shoes now.”
- Clienteling is another way to add a personal flair to the in-store experience. Both Nordstrom and Apple stores are arming store associates with mobile technologies that provide detailed information about customer shopping history, clothing sizes, likes/dislikes and 360-degree views of their customers to provide personalized service and recommendations.
- Self-pay apps for mobile check out can help you avoid the lines and let you check out anywhere in the store. Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay enable seamless checkout experiences. Amazon Go and others are also offering checkout-free shopping.
- And of course, the now omni-present “shopping basket recommendations” are getting highly- personalized. The relatively new field of customer journey analytics is enabling retailers to cater to today’s well connected omni-channel shoppers by applying predictive analytics to the digital and physical experience while personalizing it to the preferences of each customer and stage in the buying cycle.
Physical retail stores may have taken a beating over the past few years but they’re learning and adapting. They’re realizing they can provide experiences that can’t be replicated at home.
We’re seeing it every day. Which makes me look forward to seeing what the mall has to offer this year (okay, there I said it!).