Brick-and-mortar businesses were already facing stiff competition from e-commerce when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and in the months since, e-commerce’s share of the retail market has only grown. However, even dedicated tech enthusiasts say there’s still a long, rich future for in-store shopping—if brick-and-mortar retailers adopt a page or two from the e-commerce playbook.
By blending what’s unique about the in-store experience with technology that adds the convenience shoppers love about e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers can offer consumers the best of both worlds. Here, 15 members of Forbes Technology Council share smart ways a brick-and-mortar retailer can leverage technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience and build a loyal customer base.
1. Leverage Proximity Marketing
Proximity marketing could be one smart, competitive way of leveraging technology to enhance the in-store shopping experience that’s not feasible in e-commerce. Beyond just vouchers and coupons, proximity marketing offers enormous potential through personal touches and person-centered service. It can also enable a brick-and-mortar store to better understand the wants and needs of its customer base and identify notable patterns in buying behavior. – Vishwas Sutar, Lowry Solutions
2. Offer In-Store Pickup For Online Purchases
Brick-and-mortar businesses will be more equipped to compete with e-commerce as long as they add e-commerce as an additional channel. They can provide the ability for customers to buy products online and pick them up in-store for nearly instant gratification. With e-commerce businesses, customers have to wait for delivery; brick-and-mortar stores, on the other hand, can provide an option for instant pick up and a better customer experience. – Sanjjeev Singh, ASAR AMERICA, INC.
3. Use Technology To Personalize Service
Online stores have grown since the outbreak, but brick-and-mortar shops can still thrive in the current retail market if they provide customers with personalized service. Customer communications can be improved by determining their intent and analyzing their behavior and transactional data. Gather client feedback, and then act on it. Taking customer feedback into account will make them feel valued. – Chintan Shah, Brainvire InfoTech Inc.
4. Send E-Invitations And Discounts
People are ready to socialize again. Send out private invitations to shop before the store opens, with special discounts and, perhaps, unique, exclusive items. Then allow shoppers to invite a couple of friends. – Roland Gossage, GroupBy
5. Use AI To Optimize Store Layout
Brick-and-mortar stores need to level the playing field by turning their physical stores into “webpages.” E-commerce players know everything about their customers. Physical stores should leverage their existing cameras to digitize their physical spaces. Using computer vision and artificial intelligence, physical stores can truly compete with e-commerce by optimizing store layouts, reducing queue lengths and, ultimately, increasing conversions. – Michael Adair, CGTrader
6. Blend Unique Experiences With New Technologies
Brick-and-mortar businesses have the opportunity to offer a more complete experience and use their physical locations for both experiential impact and instant gratification. They have the ability to couple key experiences—such as events, special “surprise and delight” physical experiences and so on—with new technologies to place expanded offerings in context through services such as the endless aisle or marketplace. – Nadir Hirji, PwC
7. Develop An Inventory App That Makes Shopping Fun And Easy
The in-store guys have one significant advantage: The customer walks away with the product. In e-commerce, we pray it gets delivered safely. If you can make the in-store experience better than the Web, customers will come to you. Create a cool app with your inventory, make hunting for an item fun and make the payment experience as simple as walking out the door. Retailers win when they think “outside the store.” – Jim Parkinson, North American Bancard
8. Allow Product Customization And In-Store Trials
The key to remaining relevant is for brick-and-mortar stores to work with technology, not against it, to create experiential environments in inherently interactive spaces. Allow consumers to customize products when interacting with store associates. Create unique experiences to trial and observe items in action, and track the in-person journey digitally so the shopper can access that info later. – Bruno Guicardi, CI&T
9. Promote Your Unique Offerings Through Digital Content
The adoption of a digital strategy is very easy today. The smartest opportunity for a brick-and-mortar retailer is to leverage digital strategies selectively based on their core differentiation. Say you are a niche boutique retailer. Build a simple Web storefront, generate content on your niche (which no one knows better than you), post testimonials and offer to ship. Digital is for everyone, not just e-commerce! – Ashok Balasubramanian, Open Weaver Inc.
10. Bring E-Commerce Features Into The In-Store Experience (And Vice Versa)
Unify the physical and digital experiences to provide best-in-class journeys for your customers. Bring e-commerce features into the store to promote ease of use, and bring the store into e-commerce via virtual, live and hybrid experiences to elevate connections. – Mihaela Mazzenga, Valtech
11. Digitally Promote Special In-Person Events
People are itching to hang out with the people they want in their lives. Brick-and-mortar businesses can combine that urge with another favorite—in-person shopping. Offering “bring-a-friend” or “bring-your-neighbor(s)” discounts to increase foot traffic and marketing in-store promotions—such as sampling, demos, coffee gatherings, gamified events and browsing—can make in-person shopping a rich, social and shared experience. – Vikram Srivats, WaveMaker
12. Post Scannable Coupon Codes
One thing brick-and-mortar stores can do to create a better in-store shopping experience is to include scannable coupon codes. Many physical locations have delved into the mobile app space. If your store has a mobile app, you can create special coupon codes and offers that are only available to visitors who download your app. This strategy can help you increase both local traffic and brand visibility. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster
13. Speed Up The Checkout Experience
The checkout experience can be a competitive advantage. Many retailers have invested heavily in tech to speed up the checkout process with faster, modern IT systems. Prices have dropped considerably to help make this happen, especially in the world of open-source, where Linux/KVM is giving VMware a run for their money by significantly lowering the cost of IT per store. – Bruce Kornfeld, StorMagic
14. Integrate QR Codes To Share Product Reviews
One of the biggest ways e-commerce trumps the in-store experience is the ability to compare products and read consumer reviews and feedback on a product in real time as you browse. Integrating that ability into the in-store experience through a quick QR code that instantly pulls up the product, its customer reviews and other, comparable products can go a long way. – Sagar Babber, Gleantap
15. Set Up Kiosks To Enable Self-Guided Product Discovery
Shoppers still want to help themselves before talking to a human, whether they’re in a store or online. In-store kiosks should be able to power product and content discovery that mirrors the website experience. Many consumers do research before making a purchase. Get ahead of the competition by ensuring they can access such things as reviews, videos and product details as easily in the store as they can online. – Will Hayes, Lucidworks