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Why the future of retail is exciting, not gloomy

According to a recent Retail Customer Experience article, the future of the brick & mortar store is exciting, not gloomy. From the article, Kristen Gramigna highlights four reasons way brick & mortar retail is here to stay.

As consumers have become increasingly reliant on mobile devices, consulting apps, websites and online reviews to help dictate purchase decisions, the future of brick and mortar retailers once seemed bleak. But, just as consumers tend to move through ebbs and flows that dictate their purchase frequency and brand loyalty, new advancements in mobile technology point to a new retail future that will bridge the divide between online and physical storefronts, giving customers the very best of what both “worlds” have to offer. Here’s how.

The end of lines

One of greatest hiccups in the customer purchase process for physical retail storefronts has been the inconvenience of waiting in checkout lines. But thanks to increased customer familiarity and comfort with mobile payment options, that challenge has been eliminated entirely. With contactless payment methods, customers who download a mobile payment-equipped retailer app are empowered to scan the barcode of an item they want to buy and complete a purchase from anywhere in the store, without having to wait for, or even interact with, a salesperson.

Personalization through technology

Thanks to Apple’s introduction of beacons (hardware sensors that wirelessly communicate with mobile devices within a specific proximity) earlier this year, consumers will increasingly become more familiar with “push” messaging that essentially acts as their personal shopper, suggesting and pointing out relevant items that might be of interest, as they move through the store. As consumers and retailers grow more familiar with the technology, its functionality will reach beyond marketing. For example, when retailers leverage BLE proximity beacons, customers can use a retailer’s mobile app to request the help of a customer service staff when needed. The beacon can, in turn, immediately locate where the appropriate employee is in the store and facilitate the interaction by sending the team member to the customer.

The “push notification” feature also allows retailers to capture customer feedback about their in-store experience immediately after the point of sale, so they can continue to refine their brick-and-mortar strategy to meet customer needs.

Flexible, guaranteed fulfillment

Identifying where to buy a product for the lowest price once seemed like an insurmountable divide between physical storefronts and e-commerce, but new research, such as that by consultancy firm Simon-Kucher & Partners, reveals that online shoppers may not be as price-sensitive as once believed. In fact, the Simon-Kucher data indicates that consumers actually turned to e-commerce for the convenience aspects of knowing a product is in stock and ready to ship — and having a finite date of when they’ll receive the purchase.

Now that leading retailers like Walmart, Target and Nordstrom have streamlined “buy online, pick up in store” business models into the mainstream retail experience, physical storefronts actually have an upper hand: Delivery is much quicker than through e-commerce, often allowing the customer to pick the item up in store within minutes of the online purchase. If the customer doesn’t like the item once they see it in person, the return and exchange process in-store is far simpler than an e-commerce model entails.

Reverse showrooming

Though brick-and-mortar stores have faced the challenge of “showrooming” (when customers visit a physical storefront to experience a product in person only to make the purchase later online) for several years, advancements in mobile technology indicate that the once problematic behavior now works in the favor of brick-and-mortar retailers. Though Amazon is the venue of choice for traditional showroomers, it’s become an even more popular destination for reverse showroomers who use the site for product research, but ultimately buy elsewhere, according to data from Business Insider. Reverse showrooming is particularly popular among this Millennials, indicating a shift in preferences of younger shoppers.

Provided that brick-and-mortar retailers understand and leverage the technology tools that will level the playing field with e-commerce to capture customer insights, message relevant offers, and provide the convenience and service that has made e-commerce popular, brick-and-mortar retailers are primed to emerge victorious in the battle for shopper dollars.

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