The future of the store is digital

Despite eCommerce hogging the spotlight in recent years, the art of the retail store is enjoying something of a renaissance.

While there is no doubt that the consolidation of the high street is not yet over – BHS is only the most recent example of what can happen to a retailer if they fail to keep up with their customers. We’ve also see online-only retailers moving into the physical retail space. Etsy opening a test concession in Selfridges, and Amazon opening physical stores are excellent examples of this. For those who are able to do it well, enticing, thoughtfully designed stores have become a powerful brand differentiator.

At Future Stores 2016, a major gathering of in-store experience innovators from some of Europe’s most progressive retailers, WBR launched its latest report – The Highstreet Renaissance. Drawing insights from 100 Heads of Retail at Europe’s largest retail stores, the findings reveal how they are using digital in-store and what new technologies they are experimenting with to provide customers with a truly memorable sensory experience.

Leveraging digital in-store

Retailers know that the key to reviving their high-street stores is the integration of technology. 100% of the retailers surveyed are looking at developing their stores’ digital offering over the next two years. With more than half of all respondents planning to invest a million pounds or more over the next 12 months, it is clear retail businesses are prioritising in-store technology.

A recent Retail Week study found that more than half of shoppers expect more from a store’s look and design than they did five years ago. It is therefore not surprising that understanding the customer the biggest in-store challenge retailers identified for the second year running, and an area in which retailers worry a lack of knowledge and budget may hold them back.

However, promisingly there are signs that this is being addressed and organisational confidence in planning and implementing digital projects is high. Having a robust plan for roll-out and implementation plan was identified as the most important part of developing in-store technology. But despite this, retailers are still concerned about syncing online and offline systems as well as a lack of internal skills.

Testing & tech adoption

When it comes down to specifics, the retailers surveyed for this research are looking at a host of features and how they help make their customers’ shopping experience easier. In terms of confidence in the results from their in-store technology, most felt that their organisations were good at using data to track in-store consumer behaviour, but they were more confident in their multi-channel operation.

Almost 80% of retailers have already rolled out in-store Wi-Fi, while more than 50% offer mobile payments. In addition, nearly 70% have already implemented or will soon install interactive screens. The majority of retailers across Europe are also trialling or looking to roll out technologies such as virtual reality, tablets and beacon technology.

Mobile navigation and accurate in-store mapping are a priority for all the retailers surveyed, not to mention the potential opportunities offered by applications like store check-in and reward. The majority of retailers are have either made significant steps to roll these out or are planning to in the next 18 months.

To uncover more retailer insights – download The Highstreet Renaissance: A Future Stores Report.

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