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New Roles for the Physical Store in Retail’s Next Generation

New Roles for the Physical Store in Retail's Next Generation

Four emerging strategies for leveraging a brick-and-mortar store as a cx differentiator

If anything has put the physical store to the test, 2020 sure did—and it survived, irrevocably changed. Brick and mortar undoubtedly experienced an exponential acceleration of a transformation already well underway, increasingly operating in tandem with ecommerce to provide value-add services, opportunities for experiential engagement, and heightened speed & convenience, alongside safety.

To better the balance of peace of mind & efficiency while also offering greater personalization and flexibility, retailers are increasingly integrating specific tech-led operations and infrastructure into their physical store experiences, empowering shoppers and associates alike with mobile-activated opportunities and expanding access to services like in-store appointments and BOPIS.

Four Trends to Consider

In a recent research paper, PSFK explored just how leading retailers are tackling this transformation—below, find four top strategies for marshaling the store as an operational advantage and CX differentiator.

Decentralized Point of Service — As physical stores adapt to accommodate new modes of shopping and operations, the fixed nature of transactions—checkout, returns, pick-up, order placement, etc.—is giving way to a more fluid approach. Mobile and IoT technologies, coupled with more flexible layouts, now enable every aspect of the shopping experience, from try-on and testing to checkout and customer service, to happen anywhere onsite. Amazon Fresh grocery stores, for one, have implemented the Dash cart, which marshals computer vision in conjunction with sensor tech to recognize what’s in shoppers' carts. When customers exit the store via a special Amazon Dash Cart lane, the order in their cart is automatically charged to the credit card associated with their Amazon account.

Interactive Showroom — As mobile becomes consumers’ preferred method for navigating daily life, companies are reimagining their stores to sync with branded apps and social platforms to create an enhanced shopping experience. Leveraging either in-store browsing modes that rely on location context to activate or interactive IoT-enabled sensors and displays, these environments unlock relevant product information and shopping features to guide customers throughout their journey. Next-gen NYC department store SHOWFIELDS has done so with its  Magic Wand app, an experience that invites store customers to explore with phone in hand. Via their own phone, shoppers can scan tags to learn from scores of brands and artists, access narrated audio tours, purchase products and artwork, and much more.

Local Fulfillment Networks — Despite increased investment in regional distribution networks, brands and retailers are faced with customers who are increasingly reliant on retail partners to offer same-day or on-demand product deliveries—whether for essentials, such as food and medication or for need-right-now purchases such as camping gear or running shoes. By partnering with vendor-experts in community navigation, retailers are building out their nano fulfillment strategies to serve customers right when they need it. Parachute Home, DTC home & bedding company, has done so by collaborating with Postmates, on-demand delivery service provider, enabling same-hour delivery to locals as well as the opportunity to browse its Postmates in-app storefront, Shop.

Augmented Merchandising — While in-store browsing creates an opportunity to see, touch and try products, shoppers can’t necessarily see how they fit and perform in multiple scenarios and settings. To overcome this, retailers are integrating digital media —video, interactive displays and experiential tech like VR — into the product experience. Canada Goose has taken this immersive educational approach in its Toronto concept called “The Journey.” The inventory-free location is anchored around a series of experiential rooms where visitors can not only learn the story behind the brand's iconic parkas, but also put them to the test in a “Cold Room” complete with wind and snow. Customers can digitally purchase items from an on-the-floor associate and have them shipped to home.

This was just a selection of the trending strategies retailers are employing to harness newfound opportunities in brick and mortar—find out about how to access the full research paper on the new role of the store here.