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Lately I have been reading about connected homes and connected cars. Whilst I am (very) excited at the prospect of experiencing both in the not-so-distant future, it left me wondering about what connected stores might look like also a few years from now.

3 players stick out for me when it comes to transforming the in-store experience through the integration of information and communications technologies.

All 3 are working hard to merge the bricks-and-mortar and virtual shopping experiences into one effortless, consistent and personalised experience. This they achieve not only through a selective use of technologies (mobile or other), but also by observing their customers’ shopping behaviours and adapting the in-store experience accordingly.

According to Burberry –

For Christopher Bailey, chief creative officer of the British luxury fashion brand, the shop of the future integrates behaviours that are inherent to the online shopping experience into the in-store experience.

And so in the same way as customers shop online from the comfort of their sofa at home, customers in its London flagship store are shown to a sofa at point of purchase, where they are presented with a swipe machine that swiftly computes their purchase.

Christopher Bailey commenting on the launch of the new store design in 2012 explained: “We designed it like that because when you’re shopping at home online, you are on the sofa with your credit card. You don’t stand up and queue.”

Other examples of the “digitalization” of Burberry’s largest store include embedding clothes with RFID-enabled chips that can be read by the fitting rooms mirrors, triggering images and videos of the selected garment in catwalk shows or how it was made. Kitting out the store with high-speed lifts to fast track the time it takes for staff to check an item’s availability is one other (this check is instant online).

According to Starbucks –

For Howard Schultz, the CEO of the coffee house chain, the store of the future will enable a one-to-one relationship between the brand and its customers through the personalization of the service they receive as they walk into the store.

As he explained in a recent interview with USA Today, customers with a history of in-store mobile payments made through the Starbucks app could in future be presented with their usual favorite drink as they are geo-located and id’ed the moment they step through the door – without having to order.

According to GAP –

For the high-street fashion retailer, the store of the future reconciles the rise of the omni-channel shopper with the company’s ability to connect demand (web, mobile or offline) to supply (wherever it might be also) through its backend systems. This has led the retailer to start trialing the find in-store and reserve-in store features on its shopping app.

The app geo-locates you and flags the nearest stores. By connecting to the store inventories in real-time, it shows you the inventory level for a given item and ultimately gives you the ability to find and buy the item you pre-shopped online in a store of your choice.

As you go online to shop with GAP, you spot an item you like, you locate it in a store near by and simply reserve it. The item is held for you until the next business day for you to try in store, build a transaction and possibly a whole outfit around it. Unlike pick-up in-store, it encourages customers to stick around as they try things on and build a connection with the staff and brand.

In both scenarios, the shopping experience starts online and leads to an offline transaction.

No doubt there are more examples in the same vein (feel free to share those you find inspiring!). Burberry and Starbucks however are ones to watch: they have famously (and successfully) broken new grounds when it comes to integrating digital media and platforms into their marketing efforts. And they are constantly looking for new ways to market their products and optimise the customer experience.

With this in mind, any one who ever thought the bricks-and-mortar shops would soon be a thing of the past may want to have a rethink. A converted online shopper myself, I could even be tempted to go back in-store.

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In a further effort to differentiate from its online rivals (Wal-Mart, Amazon, BestBuy) and combat showrooming by having products that can’t be bought elsewhere online, Target has just made 6 new brands exclusive to its online store. This move follows another bold decision by the retailer only earlier this month to offer its customers a year-round online price match. This only shows Target’s ongoing committment to tapping into the ever increasing online shopping uptake as well as its determination to protect its customer base from other online retailers and keep its customers coming back for more as much as possible.
Australian retailers may want to take a page from this retailer’s approach but also other US retailers (check out Walmart’s response to showrooming) on how to grow online sales.

Personally I am a huge fan of both Walmart and Target’s agile approach in the online shopping space – given their size, their ability to quikcly respond to and embrace consumer behaviour changes is to be commended.

Brilliant ad! It makes online shopping so much more interesting – and this is also very true : the best online shopping experience I have ever had with a supermarket was in the UK (not with Tesco but Sainsbury’s, its competitor). Their personal shoppers DO pick the freshest fruits and vegs for you, which was the biggest barrier for me as a consumer to shop for fresh produce online. After trying online shopping with them i never put a foot back in their store. Which makes me wonder…. Could this the beginning of the end for bricks-and-mortar supermarkets?

More on this ad here.

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