Many people might assume that the emergence of online shopping models is leading us to the ‘death’ of the high street. Store closures are often in the news, and the latest figures predict that global e-commerce volume is set grow further – by 73% to 2021, reaching $798 billion. On the other hand, physical commerce volume – ‘bricks and mortar’ is set to grow just 1.6% to $4,556 billion. But this only tells half of the story. Most consumers prefer to have the option of shopping both online and offline, so savvy retailers are deploying digital technologies to bring greater personalisation and efficiency across both channels.
Take augmented reality. With AR, shoppers could interact with a ‘smart mirror’ to see how the garment might look without the need to try it on, or how a piece of furniture might look in their own home – as they might do online. IoT devices like beacons can tap into location data, combining with online data to send personalised offers. For example, you might receive a one-time promotion when passing the physical store of a brand you’ve recently browsed online. The concept of ‘save the sale’ (preventing customers from walking away if an item is out of stock), is being solved by tech to give store assistants real-time inventory access. Online only retailers are even opening physical stores; in Bonobos’ “Guideshops”, shoppers can browse and try on items, but cannot take from the stores, with purchases delivered direct to their home address. This saves money on rent and expenses, while consumers benefit from greater choice and convenience. These are some of the ways in which offline and online are merging to create an omnichannel approach. The winners will be those that combine technology-powered personalisation and convenience, with a superior in-store experience.