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4 Tools That Can Help Retailers Future-Proof Their Stores

Via LinkedIn : Brick-and-mortar retail has been getting a lot of love and attention lately. Contrary to previous claims that the death of physical shops is imminent, it looks like offline storefronts are still going strong. Warby Parker, for instance, is reportedly earning major revenues from its brick-and-mortar branches, raking in $3,000 per sq. ft. Then there’s the news that Amazon is opening up its own physical store in NY for the holidays.

These are clear indicators that brick-and-mortar retail is very much alive and well.Before celebrating too hard though, we need to establish the distinction betweentraditional and evolved brick-and-mortar stores.

The former pertains to stores that don’t do much except sell products to customers. Shoppers walk in, find the products they need (maybe engage with the associate) then leave. Evolved stores on the other hand, offer so much more than just “stuff.” These stores make use of technology and train associates to provide personalized, engaging, and compelling experiences to shoppers. These stores are also more connected and can often link to other channels (i.e. mobile and ecommerce) to enable people to engage simultaneously or even interchangeably across multiple touch points or devices.

Most of the successful brick-and-mortar stores today (including Warby Parker and former online pure plays like Bonobos and Birchbox) fall under the “evolved” category. And needless to say, it’s also these types of stores that will continue to thrive in the future.

Fortunately, making the transition from traditional to evolved is completely doable. There are plenty of retail technologies that enable brick-and-mortar stores to level up and be future-ready. This post will shed light on some of these tools and solutions. Check them out below and see if you can adopt them in your business.

Beacons

Beacons

 

Powered by BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) technology, beacons are devices that can transmit messages to other Bluetooth-enabled gizmos, such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches. More important, beacons have the capabilities to “recognize” devices based on their location or previous interactions. This enables retailers to send tailored notifications to shoppers depending on where they are in the store or what type of customer they are.

So, if say, a returning customer walks in, the store’s beacon can send her a “welcome back!” message, and when that shopper passes by the footwear section and the merchant happens to have a sale on shoes, the store can give her a heads up via a smartphone alert.

In addition to personalized promos, beacons can also be used for in-store analytics purposes. Most beacon solutions come with tools for measuring foot traffic, dwell time, and more, enabling retailers to gather data and further get to know their customers and their store.

A retailer, for example, can use their beacon to determine which parts of the store are getting the most and least traffic, and use that information to make merchandising and layout decisions.

RFID

An acronym for Radio Frequency Identification, RFID provides a more modern approach to inventory management. The technology comes in the form of a chip that’s embedded in an item’s tag or packaging. This chip stores product information and makes it easier for merchants to count, track, and locate merchandise using their inventory system or a hand-held device.

It helps retailers ensure that each item is in the right place at the right time, so they no longer have to “hunt down” products when they (or customers) can’t find the right color or size in store shelves.

Here’s a great video showing the technology in action:

Mobile Devices

Smartphones and tablets can streamline store tasks and enhance the customer experience in so many levels.

Mobile point-of-sale systems, for example, can speed up check out and reduce lines by allowing merchants to email receipts or ring up customers from anywhere in the store.

Arming associates with mobile devices also allows them to provide on-the-spot information and services to customers. Consider what Burberry is doing. Associates at select locations have tablets that they can use to look up shoppers’ purchase histories so they can offer personalized recommendations.

Mobile Payments

Mobile payments solutions providers such as Apple, Google and PayPal will continue to ramp up their efforts to entice merchants and consumers to adopt their offerings.

And while there isn’t a sure mobile payments winner at the moment, it’s very clear that more and more consumers will adopt mobile wallets in the comings months—and retailers need to be prepared.

If you’re considering mobile payments, it’s best to observe and assess the different solutions in the market and talk to your customers to figure out the best one for you. You may also want to check out a solution such as Poynt, which supports multiple payment technologies so retailers can honor various payment methods, from cash and cards, to NFC and even Bluetooth.

Tech can only take you so far

Can the above-mentioned tools future-proof brick-and-mortar stores? Yes, but just to a certain extent. It’s important to remember that technology, while powerful, can only take you so far.

Technology is a tool, and not an ultimate solution, so before adopting new gizmos for your store, see to it that you have done your research. Learn more about the technologies you want to try and see them in action.

For instance, if you’re looking to equip your store with beacons, find another retailer that’s using the technology so you can see and experience it first-hand. Talk to each solution provider and ask them for references that you can check out.

Have conversations with your staff, and, most important, your customers. Learn about their needs, study their shopping journeys, then determine the tools you need to adopt in order to get products into their hands as quickly and conveniently as possible. After all, at the end of the day, isn’t that what retail really is about?

 

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