BRICK-AND-MORTAR STORES AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
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Just like they say in fashion, what was old becomes new again. This saying seems to fit in perfectly in
the case of physical retail stores. They were once believed to be in danger of going out of business –
obsolete. However, they are now viewed with a newly-found potential which is somewhat driven by
what was once considered to be a threat to the brick and mortar stores’ traditional business model:
In fact, the latest technology is enabling retail stores to come up with innovative ways to capitalize
on strategic opportunities.
Even though online technologies provide the modern consumer the speed, convenience, and ease of
use, there’s something that only brick and mortar stores can provide – face to face personal
interaction between the consumer and the business.
Renowned retail stores are shrinking their stores’ square-footage area and are dedicating a major
portion of their investment towards creating a better shopping experience for their customers. A lot
of them are using the latest technology to offer superb customer services with enhanced
personalization. All of this is being to make their retail stores more entertaining, exciting, and
engaging for the consumers.
With that said, it is crucial not to ignore the transition that the brick and mortar stores are going
through and it’s absolutely necessary that within the retail industry, brick and mortar stores are
playing an increasingly important role, and are not being overshadowed by online retailers – an idea
that was once prevalent.
While brick and mortar stores leverage technology and add a virtual component to their overall
shopping experience, it’s important for them to not forget their underlying advantage that sets them
apart from online stores: face-to-face human interaction. This means that the staff must also be
well-trained, knowledgeable, and friendly while having awareness of the modern consumers’
A winning strategy must be developed by brick and mortar store retailers utilizing both manpower
and the latest technologies to create a seamless blend of man and technology – which work in
conjunction to provide a memorable, in-store experience to the customers, keep them engaged for
longer, and build customer loyalty.
Technology is giving brick and mortar store owners many innovative ways of seizing opportunities
Finding the Right Technology
In order to benefit from innovation and technology, brick and mortar stores should clearly define
who they are and what they wish to become. Regardless of whether a retailer decides to use
technology to impress its customers or wants to make slight changes by introducing technology that
enhances in-store experience – the implementations should be in-line with their business strategy.
Whatever the case, physical retailer stores can now enhance their consumers’ experience in ways
never before possible.
Many have dubbed the act of delivering memorable, unique in-store experience as ‘shoppertainment’.
Some retailers might want to define their brand through distinct architectural
components and store design, such as the sleek lines found at Apple Stores. Others may choose to
display how-to presentations, product demonstrations, or interactive entertainment – regardless of
what their goals are, all of them use technology that can provide them valuable analytics.
Analytics has been the core reason behind the immense success of online retailers. You simply
cannot offer what your consumers want unless you have valuable insights into their behavior. As a
result, many of the technologies used in retail stores affect the experience of customers in two ways:
direct and indirect.
Let us take the example of in-store Wi-Fi, which is becoming increasingly popular in retail stores, and
how it benefits the consumers and the retail store itself.
Direct Impact of Wi-Fi on Consumer Experience
The modern consumer uses the Internet to browse for products they want. They also compare
prices, read reviews, and base their buying decision on the information they find.
When a retailer provides free in-store Wi-Fi, it enables its customers to be completely at ease and
make a purchase with full confidence. They will be able to read reviews about the products you offer
or compare products, which will uplift their shopping experience.
Indirect Impact of Wi-Fi on Consumer Experience
There is a lot more going on than just enabling your customers to browse the Internet to look for
reviews and compare prices. Many retailers utilize technologies such as the Shopper Intelligence
Analytics to gather crucial metrics regarding consumer behavior. Only anonymous data is captured
and it does not invade your customers’ privacy.
The data gathered provides a wide variety of metrics, including the number of unique customers,
their behavior, and duration of visit, number of return visits, cross-location visits, and behavior
across locations. The hotspots in retail stores can also be identified – the areas in your store that get
the most traffic – it could be that a certain product is favored by most of your customers or this
could indicate the popularity of an ongoing offer.
Nonetheless, using these metrics, retailers can launch products that consumer want, or introduce
offers to entice them to buy. All in all, this data is extremely valuable in providing a better in-store &
brand experience to the customers. Just look at how online retailers use analytics: they offer product
suggestions based on what the customer searched for, and offer similar products to the one he or
she is currently looking at. We will talk about the importance of in-store analytics in greater detail
later in this whitepaper.
Why Cloud Has An Important Role to Play
Public cloud services persist on driving big changes in today’s markets for hardware, software, and IT
outsourcing, while laying a strong foundation for this age where innovations are widespread. To
what extent will the cloud be able to transform these markets? Well, according to Forrester
research, the public cloud market would reach almost $191 billion by 2020 from $58 billion in 2013.
Cloud applications would be leading the growth at $133 billion by 2020, while cloud platforms would
end up generating $44 billion revenue by the same year. Cloud businesses, on the other hand, would
generate $14 billion.
Most of the growth is instigated by marketing and strategy leads; however, CIOs and the technology
management organizations are expected to increasingly propel these initiatives. For them, the
message is crystal clear: make the shift into the driver’s seat; or others will.
Delivering an Enhanced Shopping Experience
The reason behind the most successful retail stores is the fact that they effectively set up an
omnichannel strategy, where the complete consumer experience covers brick and mortar, online
shopping, and all other digital touchpoints such as mobile, are impeccably integrated.
It isn’t easy, quick, or inexpensive to manage a change of such complexity and scale. A lot of factors
have to be considered and many challenges need to be overcome, such as hiring and retaining
quality human resource, deploying the right technologies, and ensuring an optimal inventory while
managing supply chain, and seamlessly integrating data across numerous channels.
Quality Talent – Due to the fact that brick and mortar store transformation focuses on
providing exemplary service to the customers with greater personalization, the is crucial to
train your employees to operate in this environment in the most efficient manner possible.
Retailers also need to think about the incentives and compensation they will offer to their
sales teams to optimally reflect and aid their omnichannel business model.
Technology – Brick and mortar store retailers need to understand the types of latest
technologies available for them, including gaining an understanding of their benefits and
uses. This will help them understand the opportunities as well as risks associated with each
technology. Technologies such as Wi-Fi analytics, tablets, smartphones, and many others are
widely used by modern to meet the demands of the modern consumer. Which technology
you should use would depend on your needs and business goals.
One major reason why many emerging technologies fail to deliver and meet the
expectations of retailers is because they failed to determine how that technology should
have been integrated into their business. The success of many of these technology initiatives
isn’t entirely dependent on the software or technology itself, but by the efficiency and
robustness of the process that follows their implementation. If there is no marked increase
in customer satisfaction, then the purpose of the technology lies curtailed.
Inventory & Supply Chain – Having a shared view of the entire inventory across retailer’s
every single channel is critical to success. It also directly impacts customer experience by
preventing stock-outs and other supply chain issues.
Retailers, when implementing technology into their brick and mortar stores and across other
channels, should ensure that they carefully review their existing supply chain processes to
ensure that they are equipped properly to handle any fluctuation in demand and can fulfill
requests for orders as the expectations of consumers become increasingly complex and
Big Data – From tracking customer buying behavior to leveraging loyalty card information,
today’s retailers can gather a huge amount of data and mine it for the most valuable metrics
that help them enhance their store processes, improve customer experience, and build
customer loyalty – all these things have an impact on the bottom line of a business.
In order to achieve this, brick and mortar store management should be able to effectively
manage, properly interpret, and take action on the data while reporting on crucial metrics
and key performance indicators (KPIs).
The data should also be collected and used for providing personalized recommendations to
customers – this is an integral part of today’s omnichannel shopping experience. Just like big
data is of great importance to online retail, it is evolving and is being leveraged and
implemented into brick and mortar business models.
The amount of progress in this area varies from one retailer to another. Some have deployed
sophisticated tools such as Shopper Intelligence Analytics, while some are still indecisive
regarding rebuilding or replacing their infrastructure to adapt this customer-centric
Stakeholder Collaboration – For transformational success, it is crucial to get a buy-in across
business functions. It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to become an early adopter of
emerging technology or your marketing department wants to develop creative concepts – a
collaborative approach is crucial among all departments.
Just like any business transformation, some risks are inherent that will need to be managed
carefully. For brick and mortar or high street retailers willing to evolve their strategies, some of
these risks might include:
- A possibility of disappointing customers and losing sales due to supply chain failures
- Insufficient employee training
- Misinterpretation of main customer segments because of being too slow to adopt latest technology
While circumnavigating these risks and challenges might seem overwhelming, proper planning and
execution of strategies can help retailers move forward and make their way into the 21st Century
where information, ideas, and innovations can spread across the globe in a moment’s time.
The best retailers have a deep understanding of emerging
technologies and know how they can leverage it for growth and success
Retail Stores and Digital Technology
As we continue to witness a considerable shift in the shopping patterns of consumers from brick and
mortar to online, things have turned out to be in a way they weren’t expected. Brick and mortar
stores are to remain dominant channels of revenue generation in the foreseeable future. This is
because of the use of digital technology by brick and mortar retailers to enhance their customers’
shopping experience, while providing a much more personalized, and human-to-human interaction
that cannot be leveraged by online-only stores.
As technology is married to the human need for a physical shopping experience, the results are
amazing. By implementing technologies and enabling the customers to connect with the brand from
various touchpoints, physical store retailers are starting to lead the way for a completely fascinating
The latest technology can be used for:
- Enhancing in-store experience
- Benefiting from mobile user capability
- Increasing convenience for shoppers
- Promoting a retailer’s store and online presence together as an omni-channel approach to
- the consumer
In this section, we will review some of the latest technology that is being used by brick and mortar
stores and has proven its worth in enhancing consumer experience.
Tablets have become a crucial component for providing a better in-store experience. They are being
used by retailers in two ways: digital signage and kiosks. This technology encourages engagement
and interactivity on the part of the consumer. Many consumers are even using tablets to replace
obsolete checkout desks.
For instance, tablets can transform an ordinary dressing room into a highly interactive place where
consumers can try new clothes, capture photos, and share their experiences on social media
Giant touchscreens can be installed in showrooms and they can be used as interactive mirrors that
the visitors can use to assess any product’s potential. Some retailers have made tablets available in
their stores to generate interest among their target audience and then guide them to the right
product at the best price. Many retailers are even adapting to consumers using their personal
devices while shopping at their stores.
Tablet technology in retail stores can help in a number of ways. Take the example of Acustom
Apparel in New York. This store, with the help of a 3D body scanner, finds clothes that fit perfectly
on the customer. Here, the digital technologies are used to gather around 200,000 data points –
which are then used to develop a 3D model of the body. This model is fed into the store’s
proprietary algorithms to develop custom clothing.
Hellman’s has installed tablet computers on some grocery carts. These devices are able to detect the
radio frequency identification (RFID) tabs on the products a customer places inside the cart, and are
able to propose recipes that include those items. The tablets can also be used to gain other useful
Tablets empower retailers with the ability to offer a valuable visual experience to effectively engage
their audience. It helps the customers enjoy a mix of both the real and the digital worlds.
- Location-based Services (LBS)
- Location-based services can be divided into two types: outdoor LBS and indoor LBS.
- Outdoor Location-based Services
- Outdoor LBS services utilize the internal GPS installed in a consumer’s smartphone to match their
- whereabouts with regards to special offers or local businesses. Retailers can enjoy a huge marketing
- boost when they have the ability to know when their customers are close-by, reach out to them, and
- invite them to come into their stores.
their mobile. This can be done whenever a customer gets close to their store, enabling retailers to
send targeting marketing messages – mostly in the form of a SMS or through their mobile app if the
user has installed it.
Customers can engage retail location-based services through mobile apps such as Shopkick or
Indoor Location-based Services
Indoor LBS enables similar type of tracking and provides the same promotional capabilities as its
outdoor version. This technology, however, is based on the Bluetooth technology. Retailers are
required to install Bluetooth beacons at different locations throughout their store. These beacons
then push notifications to the consumers as they walk around in the brick and mortar store. Apple
and Google are the key players in indoor LBS field.
At Macy’s, those customers that come in with Shopkick app on their iPhones get alerts about deals
or products that may be of interest to them. This type of precision marketing can be highly effective,
mainly because it utilizes real-time behavioral data to deliver personalized content instantly, thereby
encouraging the consumers to interact with a brand, driving up customer loyalty and revenue.
Many of the retailers trying to blend technology into their brick and mortar stores offer free Wi-Fi
access in their stores, allowing customers to use their mobile devices to perform research on
product, read reviews, compare prices, and find other useful information that can help them make
the right purchase decision.
Regardless of what products are offered in the store, consumers always have the option of going to
another brick and mortar store, or an online retailer to buy a product. This is why it’s best to give
them access to the Internet so they can make a buying decision with utmost confidence after getting
research done on their planned purchase.
Shopper Intelligence Analytics Technology
Retailers often search for more advanced ways to gather information about their customers’ buying
behavior. As a result, many of them are attracted towards the tempting insights offered by data
analytics and the technology that can help them gather crucial metrics.
The choices consumers make as they walk through a store are a reflection of what they think about
the store, its products, and placement. They sometimes pause at one point, but not at another. They
often choose to walk down a particular aisle but ignore the one right next to it. They pick up a
particular product, but don’t buy it.
As a high street retailer, capturing this type of information is very important for you. Using this data,
you can learn a great deal about your customers, including what they like about your store, how
often they visit your store, which areas of the store they visit the most, and so on.
While we will discuss the importance of in-store analytics in detail in the coming sections, it is
necessary to state that analytics play a crucial role in helping you shape your marketing and sales
strategy, while also enabling you to fine-tune your overall business strategy.
- 3D Printing
- 3D printing has been in the news for quite some time for its marvelous and impressive ability to print
- 3D objects. For retailers, this can be seen as an opportunity to enhance their business processes.
- Well, 3D printing can enhance customer interaction with your brand. With trends such as
- personalizing objects widespread these days, 3D printing can offer your customers fulfill their needs of customization.
technology to show them small-scale 3D models.
Just think about this for a moment. Imagine you enter your favorite store where you see a couple of
machines busy printing something in 3D. One is making a gorgeous case for iPhone, while another
makes a delicate bracelet. You find a sales person next to these machines who welcomes you and
tells you that you can have a custom designed created. After you’re done with your shopping, you go
home with a custom-designed vase.
3D printing will enable customers to enjoy a more personalized shopping experience by giving them
the option of having something created exactly as per their needs. Instead of placing an order for a
product that will take you a couple of days to be delivered from an online store, you could simply
walk into a store and have it 3D printed right there and then. For customers, convenience at its
best. For retailers, a great opportunity to increase sales and customer loyalty.
Mood-sensing technology is among the latest additions to the technology arsenal available for retail.
Mood sensing technology can be integrated into retail stores to improve the in-store shopping
The technology allows retailers to extend offers depending on the time of the day, the season, and
most important of all – the mood of the customer. These devices can be installed in kiosks where the
customer stands facing it, allowing the sensors to capture their facial expressions and appearance.
Based on this, the technology determines the mood of the consumer, and presents offers based on
This new technology can provide retailers a very accurate way of capturing data in real-time about
the interaction of shoppers with the store’s products, sales associates, and the store itself.
Leveraging In-Store Analytics for Enhanced Store Performance
As the competition in retail industry continues to increase, a retailer’s ability to analyze their store’s
performance had never been so important than it is now.
It is important for every retailer who is considering leveraging in-store analytics to have clearlydefined
objectives. Before we talk about how retailers can use the Shopper Intelligence Analytics Wi-
Fi tool to gather and analyze data on consumer behavior, let’s discuss why in-store analytics is so
important for brick and mortar stores in the first place.
Objectives of In-Store Analytics for Brick and Mortar Stores
The importance of in-store analytics for high street retailers cannot be undermined. Here are some
of the objectives that retailers might be willing to explore.
Conversion and Footfall Data
It is crucial for a retailer to be able to extract footfall information. These insights allow you to react &
adapt in the best way possible. Conversion and people counting is the core of in-store analytics.
From this, you can gain other useful insight and understand the behavior of your customers in a
greater detail, besides knowing how well your store is performing and identifying latest shopping
The data acts as a catalyst that has the potential to increase sales, optimize productivity of staff, and
identify the best marketing tactics for greater conversion.
As a retailer, you need to know the busiest periods at your store to make sure that your staffing is
sufficient to cater to the needs of customers. This will keep your costs low, increase conversion
rates, and enhance the journey of a customer through your store.
Using analytics, you will be in a better position to balance resource to account for peak periods,
including lunch breaks or after-work hours to maximize your brick and mortar store’s chances for
conversion. In addition to that, the staff would be able to perform operational duties during times
when there is less customer traffic, such as keeping the aisles obstacle-free and the shelves stocked.
Category & Space Productivity
Dwell time indicates the amount of time customers are spending in specific areas of your store.
Analyzing this data and reviewing the patterns can help retailers identify the best locations for
placing high margin products. For instance, during the summer holidays, the retailers may wish to
highlight products for outdoor activities and place them in areas with high exposure and greater
Understanding customer behavior is the ultimate of any retailer. A better knowledge of what your
customers want, and how they want it can undoubtedly enable you to launch effective marketing
campaigns. Wi-Fi Analytics tools can allow you to review product exposure levels, navigational
routes, and engagement in the journey of a customer.
The results are oblivious: enhanced layout efficiencies and better customer service that drives and
encourages the customer to increase their length of visit in your store.
“Today’s shoppers want to feel powerful and want to have a semblance of control over their
Retailers can make them feel as such by offering various options for their shopping needs. For
instance, one of the most effective ways to achieve this is by offering omni-channel methods –
that is, an option for your consumers to check stocks, read product reviews, descriptions, and
other information right on your website even before they visit your store.”