In-Store eCommerce: Retail’s Destiny
Many of us who are old enough to remember the Sears Catalog or the days of writing a check to complete a purchase at your favorite retailer may look at today’s technology and think that retail shopping has fully evolved. With one-click shopping, loyalty programs, and personalized emails, it’s hard to imagine any more changes or improvements to the ways in which we shop. However, there’s a new idea out there that has yet to be widely adopted among most retail environments, and that’s in-store eCommerce, or bringing the perks of online shopping into a physical store.
So far, relatively few retailers have implemented in-store eCommerce. However, trends are showing that consumers want the same experience they have online available in the store so they can find the best selection, fit, pricing, and service. While technologies such as endless aisles, in-store kiosks, or even Bluetooth beacons are considered optional by the merchant, they are key to pleasing today’s customer.
Here are a few descriptions of the latest in-store eCommerce trends and why they’re important for the future of your store.
Endless Aisle is Mandatory
The term “endless aisle” popped up a few years back and refers to stores equipping associates with tablet devices in hand to help customers purchase products that are out of stock or only available from the company’s website—a simple concept, but one that resonates with shoppers.
A recent research study by iQmetrix states: “… more than 60% of tech-savvy consumers would choose to shop in-store if online services were provided in stores. In fact, 44% of U.S. shoppers access their smartphones while in-store most or all of the time.”
Yet, merchants are often intimidated by complexity or cost of endless aisle solutions. In my role as a Senior Demandware Technical Architect at Lyons Consulting Group, I discuss this need with major retail clients quite frequently. I often find that the “in-store experience” receives low priority in terms of budget or time.
When you look at the trends in consumer purchasing, this is an area that needs to be reexamined by retailers, as this can often increase in-store purchases by 10-20% while leveraging existing online technology and inventory investment.
GeoFencing and BlueTooth iBeacons
A much newer technology that will see increasing acceptance over the coming two years is GeoFencing or iBeacons. These technologies deliver customized alerts on shoppers’ smartphones as they enter a store or drive near its location.
Imagine driving near your local tire store. As you pass it on the freeway, your phone lights up telling you of a 20% off sale occurring that week. You make a note of it and stop by that afternoon to get a new set of tires.
Using the BlueTooth iBeacon, your phone can light up as you walk through a store alerting you to special offers. Or a retailer can deliver product information videos as you approach a particular product.
The Future is Here and Available for Big & Small Retail
These in-store eCommerce tools are available today for both large and small retail merchants. In my area of expertise, Demandware, we offer a solution called “Digital Storefront Solutions”. This Appcelerator Titanium based technology leverages the full power of an existing Demandware website.
It enables a full shopping experience on a native iPad environment that can be modified for the look and feel of the retailer’s brand. Fully secure checkout, card swipe, and access to all online inventory gives a shopping experience that means everyone can order the products they want in the size, color, and features they desire.
This digital store solution solution has been quite expensive in the past, but with more implementations and experience, the cost is dropping and is increasingly affordable to more retailers
GeoFencing and iBeacons are provided by many service providers at very reasonable cost. An app that I personally developed over the past year is www.proximityApp.net, which provides extremely low cost GeoFencing for retailers with high exposure to customers in all of their geographical regions.
Time to Update because your Competitor is Doing it Now
In-store eCommerce will be one of the highest growth trends over the next several years. Sophisticated companies are moving quickly in this direction. If your company is not, perhaps it’s time to start investigating options. Otherwise, stores that lack this technology may wind up looking like they are still operating in the era of the Sears Catalog or check-writing.
Tony Schwartz is a Senior Demandware Technical Architect at Lyons Consulting Group (www.lyonscg.com). He has lead top retail implementations for such clients as: Radio Shack, Bobs Stores, Eastern Mountain Sports, True Religion, Columbia Sportswear, Love Culture, Sleep Train, Jarden Consumer Services (Oester, Sunbeam, Mr. Coffee, CrockPot, and more).