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12 Retail Facelifts

Physical Retail is not dead

…it is merely undergoing a facelift!

According to PwC’s global survey, approximately 40% of consumers still make purchases in-store at least once a week, compared to just 27%  for it’s online counterpart

Another research from eMarketer forecasts a significant growth of worldwide online purchase share from 5.9% in 2014 to 8.8% in 2018; yet it would still account for only a fraction of the in-store Retail purchases

Many more similar statistics shed light on the high relevance of the humble neighborhood Retailer in times to come

Starting with Connectivity…

WiFi, Bluetooth, Location Beacons, RFID, Embedded Chips, Smart POS, Cellular, smartphones, etc. connecting everything from simple inanimate Products to Suppliers to Retail Channels to Online to Customers… creating a gold mine of insights and intelligence


Highlights of 12 Customer Visible Retail Facelift

1. Multi-Channel Footprint

Rightfully a thesis-grade topic on to itself, here are few noticeable themes:

A – Regular / Super / Full Experience Format – Applicable, but not limited to Big Box Retailers – a là Super Target, the same big store you’ve known… now getting much smarter with more ‘customer-inviting’ enhancements aiming for Complete Sensory Experience

B – Express / Urban Format – When it comes to retail giants… ‘going smaller is getting bigger’ – millennials & urban dwellers rejoice… retailers are actively investing in downsizing their full experience store into a small format; complete with localized experience and products within dense urban areas such as city centers

C – Discount Outlet – If you’ve been witnessing the rapid growth of Outlet Malls located @ an airport far far away, you are not alone… in fact over the past decade it is said that as traditional mall growth largely stagnated

it’s discount outlet cousin grew exponentially catering to an even wider ‘Smart Shopper’ audience seeking out a deal on quality goods on a tight disposable income

In some cases, select Retailers are seeing their outlet mall store contribute profits comparable to or even exceeding their High Street cousin, though that may be due to numerous inclusive factors such as high demand SKUs, seasonality & marketing magic… explains why Nordstrom is planning to bump its current ‘Rack’ format stores from 180 to ~300 by 2020 as reported by Women’s Wear Daily

D – Online – Rendering the convenience of a 24/7 open store with seamless transactional experience including customer view of full Inventory, Ordering, Payment and Delivery options, online channel is key to any Multi-Channel experience…

Also lends flexibility to the Retailer by becoming employee-friendly and closing their physical stores on key family oriented public holidays such as Thanksgiving (U.S); whilst having the online channel work hard

2. Kids Play Area / Child Minding

An in-store enhancement tailored for the parent(s) who would like to keep their little ones away from the cereal & candy aisles; albeit in ‘safe & happy’ hands

For the retailer such an added convenience could provide parents with a stress-free visit = more browsing time = potentially more/higher value Purchase + happy customer experience scores

3. Full Dining & Cafe Experience

Dining & Cafe not only elevates the in-store customer experience but also enables retailers to create a ‘lifestyle’ destination

Effectively an in-store restaurant / coffee shop could allow the shoppers to ‘break-up’ their shopping visit over few hours; without having to leave the venue… thus increasing the potential for further in-store purchases

This would also bring about a level of symbiosis between Retailers and Hospitality industries to mutually benefit each other on many levels beyond profits…

…Oh and giving store employees access to that convenience (with staff discounts) could not only boost overall productivity & employee satisfaction rates but also help in cutting down on unwanted time wastage

4. Smart Mobile POS

Picture an always mobile sales force ready to perform your sale transaction over a mobile POS anywhere in the store with the added benefit of modern Tap to Pay (Visa/MasterCard) or m-Payment (e.g. Apple Pay)

Many Retailers are rolling out that experience in-store. Getting rid of traditional POS desks not only optimizes the retailer’s floor space but also aids in unifying their POS systems across multi-channel back-end (intra-channel inventory, real time delivery timeframes, Pre-order SKUs… all in the pocket of the sales force)

Retailers may still hold on to the old school tethered POS desks’ catering to the customer segment who prefer traditional checkout experience or focus on other initiatives as priority.

5. Experience Zones

For Retailers this zone represents the perfect opportunity to provide shoppers with exactly the reason why they visited in the first place – Full Sensory experience of products

For an Consumer Electronic Retailers, it could mean a Home Cinema / Partner Product Demonstration zone (e.g. Samsung) / Educational sessions on Home Internet of Thing (IoT) products

For Fashion Retailers this could be a modernized version of mannequin, complete with live fashion shows, guest interviews and fashion ramp-esque ‘first-try-ons’

For Beauty Retailers that zone could be where customers could meet their favorite bloggers, try products from beauty co. on a rotational basis or even get that much needed Sunday facial

Through numerous innovative ideas, Retailers could entertain & engage the foot traffic that come through their doors

6. Smart Trial Rooms

For clothing, RFID / Smart chips embedded in the price tags trigger an interactive Smart mirror in the trial room to digitally display not only the items but also related accessories… as shown in Rebecca Minkoff’s flagship LA store

Using Smart mirror’s touch screen, customers can request a staff member to bring different sizes / styles and customize their lighting creating a faux time of the day… handy if they’d like to visualize how those denims look in the evening.

7. Smart Aisles

In short, smart aisles aids in bolstering the retailer’s Big Data & Analytics efforts

Not only do a combination of sensors and communication modules keep a track of individual SKU (supply chain benefits), but also aid in drawing a picture of the customer’s in-store path (merchandising & marketing benefits)

Smart LCD shelf tags leverage real time pricing & information from central database forgoing the need for constant and laborious paper tag replacement

In addition, Smart shopping carts / trolleys could communicate with RFID/Smart chips in the products to automatically update the price, present coupons to customers and offer relevant suggestions

8. Curb Pick-up

Part of the enhanced multi-channel experience where the Retailer could designate a zone for customer with an existing e-commerce order to pull over, pick up their goods and drive away without even entering the store

This acts as a ‘complementary lever’ that Retailers could provide to their customers during rush-hours / peak time-slots (e.g. grocery pre-ordered can be picked up on the way home) thereby differentiating themselves from online

9. Robotic Service

A là Best Buy in New York; where a robotic arm dubbed Chloe; retrieves fast moving shelf products such as CDs, DVDs and small accessories directly to the customer…. bigger version of Best Buy’s ATM or smaller version of an advanced automated warehouse pick phase system

The robotic service would potentially remain open 24/7 within the same Retail footprint

10. Online Kiosks

Enabling Retailers to provide their customers an option to order an out of stock product from it’s online channel

In addition to being beneficial during critical sales blitz periods such as Black Friday / Cyber Mondays, online Kiosks also aids in endless aisles providing the customer access to the Retailer’s entire inventory as well as reducing ‘Showrooming’ effect

11. Delivery Enhancements

Retailers are striving to deliver products in their customer’s hands even faster… ranging from within a couple of hours to 24 hours

Drones… Retailers such as Amazon Walmart have already applied for permission to test drone delivery, whilst Drone Delivery Canada has been selected by Shop.ca to utilize its drone delivery technology

From utilizing their own dedicated store to home delivery logistics, 3rd Party courier services through to Shared Economy drivers… Retailers are leveraging a combination of solutions to get those yellow boots to you in time for the snow blizzard later that evening.

12. Virtual & Augmented Reality

Whilst not a mass market solution… yet, Retailers are increasingly looking to VR & AR technologies that bring the in-store shopping experience to the eyeballs

Whilst VR may not be able to fulfill other sensory experiences; namely smell & touch; it would definitely enhance the mundane website based e-commerce experience today


Retailers are also investing in initiatives that maybe largely ‘invisible’ to the end consumer

They include Data Science & Social Media Research, Cognitive Intelligence, IT Infrastructure modernization, Supplier-Vendor Smart Logistics & Inventory Chain Optimizations to name a few

Ultimately, the goal is not to counter the e-commerce growth but in fact to provide a well rounded customer experience across multiple channels; which in-turn encourages repeat visitscontributing positively to the retailer’s bottom line $$ and customer experience (NPS) scores

Until that fresh baked bread aroma comes to VR, I will continue to visit my local Mariano’s in person