Remember all the articles about the “retail apocalypse” from a couple years ago? While some former giants like Sears and Toys ‘R’ Us did go down, for many others the predicted apocalypse is looking a lot more like a goldmine. Target experienced its best sales in 13 years. Retailers like Walmart, Nordstrom, and Home Depot all achieved somewhere between 3 to 8 percent sales growth at their physical stores this year.
What are brands doing to increase sales? Companies are building in-store shopping experiences that align with today’s digital-obsessed consumers. Brands are investing in providing both a tactile in-store experience, and the conveniences expected by e-commerce consumers. Tom Gehani, Director of Client Strategy and Research at Gartner L2 states that “the biggest risk a retailer can take this time of year is letting people walk out the door, because they have so many other options.”
From virtual reality “try-on” to mobile checkout, companies are raising the bar—and sales—by introducing new in-store experiences with a digital twist.
Target is Saving Consumers from the Checkout Line
Competing with Amazon Prime’s 2-day shipping, Target has introduced same-day delivery for consumers who order to-store. It’s also offering curbside pickup for consumers who take it one step further, and don’t even want to leave the car.
For the first time, Target is offering Skip the Line checkout, equipping employees with mobile checkout devices. Consumers can checkout whenever they are ready, and avoid every shopper’s least favorite thing—the awful checkout line.
Target’s app is also now offering personalized store maps and special in-store deals. Consumers who have the app benefit from perks in real-time, as special offers can be applied at checkout. The personalized app allows consumers to find an item they want quickly and check if it is in stock.
If shoppers are on an all-day shopping mission and are low on juice, they can now charge their phones at a Target ChargeItSpot—now available in all of its small-format shops, and over 100+ full-sized stores.
Sephora is Using AI to Help Consumers get the Perfect Match
A leader in bringing digital experiences to beauty retail, Sephora launched its Innovation Lab in 2015. In 2018, it merged the digital and in-store teams, to encourage the creation of a seamless omnichannel experience. “If a customer browsed online then bought in store, we can see that. We just weren’t looking at it before, but it’s a win for both channels,” states Mary Beth Laughton, EVP of Omni Retail.
Sephora is looking at in-store and online as equals, and they are innovating in both spaces to increase sales. Using AI-powered technology, its exclusive Color iQ can skan a consumer’s skin color and recommend products. In the same thread, Sephora’s Visual Artist can help consumers try on a full face of makeup—without applying a single product. Both of these technologies encourage consumers to buy, by giving them a perfectly matching products and allowing easy try-on.
Home Depot is Offering Pickup Lockers
Home Depot may not come immediately in mind when you think digital, but it is determined to change that. Hiring 1,000 new IT employees, and committing to $11.1 billion in spend—Home Depot is charging into digital full-force. Committed to offering a seamless omnichannel experience, Home Depot is rolling out many digital in-store experiences.
Taking a page out of Amazon’s book, Home Depot is now providing pickup lockers for consumers. Consumers can order online and pick up their orders in 1-2 days—all without any assistance.
It isn’t just brick and mortar that is taking inspiration from the other side. Companies that started out strictly digital are opening up physical stores to give consumers benefits of in-store experiences—like ability to try out items and ask employees questions. Online shopping companies like Warby Parker, Amazon, and Casper have opened brick and mortar stores in 2018.
In-store experiences are still worth investing in and the movement to improve consumers’ omnichannel experience is bringing the in-store and online experiences closer together. As we move into 2019, we will continue to see digital innovations improving the retail experience—and positively impacting sales.