How are our branded physical moments woven together by a digital pathway?
As we have come to enjoy the convenience and frictionless experience of online ordering and returns, there’s likely to be a division between the expectations of online and offline. The things we want or need to see in a store will become more focused, and so too the experience we expect.
We now spend more time online than a couple of years ago, and the development of online has inevitably exposed us to many more automated services. With reduced staff, many retailers have scrambled to update their operations to sell more online and incorporate AI interaction where possible.
The stigma surrounding AI is slowly eroding, and we’ll see a greater acceptance moving forward. We are all aware that AI-powered contexts are influencing our own worlds and day-to-day interactions. With some of these interventions we know what to expect and curb our expectations accordingly. Other more advanced AI-induced interactions go unnoticed
Technology is being integrated into our lives, and more people are using video calling than ever before. We’ve all become accustomed to digital social connection. We are taking part in cultural activities, normally highly dependent on the physical sensory experience, online. Streaming services are hosting museum tours, and global viewers are attending theatre performances and concerts of artists performing in places remote from their audiences.
Our willingness to use video calls means that we can receive a human service via our mobile devices at any time in any place. We can engage in video calls with a store advisor or even personal stylist either from our homes or while on the shop floor. A Japanese tourist visiting London could video call an Adidas stylist based in Tokyo while in the Adidas flagship store on Oxford Street. Language, location and expertise are no longer barriers for customers or businesses. Using video calling, staff can interact in-store in the same way that we use chat-bots online at home. Experts can be available at the moment we need them. Store staff don’t need to be trained experts at every product or service your brand offers, because an expert to anything can be just a video call away.
In-store live streaming
In-store live streaming services are being utilised by a number of retailers, but how can this evolve? It’s possible that retailers will have specific stores used entirely for live streaming services to deliver a personalised, streamed shopping experience. Some customers might be ‘live-streaming’ to enjoy the flagship store experience from the comfort of their home. Flagship stores, typically only located in major cities, can be made available globally. The launch of Nike’s latest limited edition sneaker in a flagship store in New York can be viewed live by a customer in Sydney. That customer could take part in the event, perhaps even purchase a pair of shoes at the event.
As more people adapt to the inclusion of new technology in their lives, there’s a great opportunity for stores to integrate the technological capabilities of the mobile devices that customers carry in their pocket. Most brands have their own apps, but these need to provide greater convenience and offer a more integrated store experience. Customers should be controlling every node of their digital experience from the palm of their hand. They should be using their phones to access product information, navigate stores, call assistants, order items and pay for products. We can make the store experience feel interconnected with our daily lives by integrating apps and technology that customers already use.
The store as a set
It may be common for all major experiential stores to be streaming events live to home audiences via a designated media channel. How will this impact store design and aesthetics? The ‘selfie’ changed female face make-up culture with the popularity of contouring; it’s important what your skin looks like on camera. Instagram changed fashion culture with ‘instagrammable’ outfits; aesthetics trumps quality. Will stores use materials and colours that translate to video backdrops? If the quantity of video viewers exceeds local foot traffic coming into the store, surely what people see through the lens of a camera is the top priority. Will stores have designated sections for streaming content or connecting with live virtual audiences across the globe? Crowds might gather around this part of the store like they do around sets of live news shows. Or perhaps stores might become the ideal stage for product photo shoots. Imagine the synergies created in the customer journey by connecting an online product display to products you display in-store.
Technology is being integrated into our lives in many ways. None more so than through the use of video calls and live streaming. As we spend more time online and attached to our phones, a digital-social connection is the norm. Our readiness to use our phones and make video calls is a huge opportunity for retail. Customers can connect to stores anywhere, while access to knowledge or expertise can be accessed in any store, no matter what the location. The prevalence of digital connections will change the way the physical store is used across many retail sectors.