The current consensus in the retail industry is that, despite falling instore sales, 2019 will not mark the death of the physical store. Instead, it will coexist happily with a digital ecosystem, serving as an addition and extension to services such as online ordering and in-store pickup, bookings and services, store location and others. While much retail analysis is focused on investing in digital commerce, delivery, and fulfillment, often at the expense of physical retail sales, there is a way to have your cake and eat it too. Here’s how five retailers are reviving the store through digital.
- Instore services booked online. Luxury cosmetics brand Estee Lauder is using its website to reinforce its reputation for luxury and convenience by allowing UK customers to book services such as full make-up looks or makeup lessons, skincare consultations and try-ons. The consultations allow the brand, which primarily sells through department stores and online, to better define its story and get closer to its shoppers. For retailers with their own physical locations, it provides a wealth of shopper data to improve ad targeting, but also a new reason to visit the store. More importantly, it helps customers see a shopping trip as more than just a necessary chore, turning it instead into a self-care ritual.
- Marketplace platforms for service bookings. These online platforms are another option for smaller retailers and brands, which don’t have the scope to invest in full-scale digital transformation projects. Platforms like Appointedd, BookingBug, and others allow small business owners to benefit from both the marketing allure and the convenience of pre-booked services. These services are low-code, plug-and-play options that, used in conjunction with a well-organized, inspiration focused store, can help revive shopper interest and foot traffic.
- An impactful O2O rewards programme. In 2018, US retailer Walgreens (part of Walgreens Boots Alliance) launched its Balance Rewards programme – a loyalty points system with a twist. Through collaborations with fitness trackers such as MapMyFitness, the rewards programme gives shoppers extra loyalty points to spend in-store for making healthy choices like exercising, eating well and quitting smoking.
- Influencer marketing. The benefits of influencer marketing have been touted far and wide and many retailers are aware of the power of an endorsement from the right Instagram celebrity or youtuber to drive online conversions. In May 2018, UK athletic wear start-up Gymshark collaborated with long-term ambassador Nikki Blacketter – a youtube and Instagram influencer – on a named collection. The Nikki Blacketter x Gymshark collection was also promoted at pop-up stores in London, New York, and Los Angeles. Blacketter’s presence at the events drew thousands of eager fans in total and the collection (the second named collaboration between Blacketter and the brand) sold out within days. The appeal of online influencer marketing is indisputable at this point. However, retailers are still under-utilizing the connection that influencers have with their fans face to face.
- Using online services to improve the store experience. Swedish furniture retailer IKEA has been at the forefront of digital innovation for quite some time. This particular feature doesn’t fall under the traditional definition of e-commerce, but it does integrate digital and physical in a seamless way, that really puts customer needs in focus. The virtual trip planner allows customers to simplify their trip, map the exact location of items, check availability and go in and out quickly and efficiently. It takes the aspect of the trip that most IKEA shoppers loathe – product discovery – out of the noisy, busy store and allows shoppers to feel better and more certain about their trip. This way, the shopper’s focus can be taken off the daunting task of finding the product they need and freed up to discover additional items to bulk up their purchase. The dedicated mobile app and AR capabilities show how well IKEA understands mobile as a platform and its potential to really help the shopper.