Walk into the Edmonton store of Sport Chek, Canada's largest sports retailing chain, and you will see 800 screens with 220 channels worth of product images and deals. There are also treadmills fitted with special technology - when shoppers walk on it, their correct sneaker size pops up - and community walls broadcasting local sports information.
"Let's get phygital in the stores," says Frederick Lecoq, SVP of Marketing at FGL Sports Ltd, which runs Sport Chek. Lecoq was speaking at the Adobe Summit at Salt Lake City in the US, where he shared how Sport Chek's new strategy of marrying physical with digital has led to "the Edmonton store now posting 50 per cent sales growth".
At the stores of upscale American fashion retailer Nordstrom, a unique social engagement is to use Pinterest fan base to identify popular products and pin them up. The "most pinned products" are then quickly displayed on a table in the shop with special signage, garnering interest from shoppers. Nordstrom is using what Jason Goldberg, GVP, Commerce Strategy, at digital agency Razorfish, calls "social proof" to induce shoppers to buy an item.
E-commerce stores have shown that adding ratings and reviews can double the conversion of an item, says Goldberg. Now these ratings and reviews are entering physical stores in interesting ways, providing "social proof".
When a customer likes an outfit, for instance, the salesperson can use his/her tablet to put the outfit on a large screen on the wall and at once ratings and reviews from people who have bought the outfit are played out alongside with pictures from Instagram. "As opposed to static content, it's pulling all that social proof from the cloud," says Goldberg, who describes how co-shopping - collaboration between the salesperson, the shopper and the extended network outside of the shop - is now the new way of shopping in physical stores.
Since the day Burberry used magic mirrors inside the dressing room that could tell shoppers what accessories they could buy with the product they were trying on, digital in the showroom has come a long way. A host of tools is now invading the physical stores.
"Shifting our mindset from transaction to creating engagement is important," says Adam Silverman, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research, explaining why this is happening.
"Fifty-two per cent of store sales are influenced online. Customers are at home doing pre-shopping. That is causing some change in how customers shop in stores. It's leading to reduction in traffic in stores," says Silverman. But this reduction is what has forced stores like Sport Chek and Nordstrom to boldly experiment with tech inside the stores.
A consensus is that digital has to seep into the DNA of every single employee and percolate from leadership down.
Physical stores are moving into real-time operations. If e-commerce took the lead in using social engagement and augmented reality to boost sales, the physical stores are now going digital to lure back the customer traffic. For customers, the shopping experience is only going to get better and better.
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