It’s no secret some big retail brands are closing stores this year. Although these big boxes were once bellwethers for retail, their struggles aren’t necessarily indicative of the industry or brick-and-mortar business as a whole.
Many retailers are thriving. Omnichannel or not, successful retailers are keeping up with the times and staying ahead of customer expectations and demands. Adaptation has always been the keystone to good business, but now in this global economy it’s the keystone to mere survival.
So how are retailers adapting? Technology, mainly. And we don’t just mean e-commerce.
We live in an ever-increasingly connected society, and that notion extends to brick-and-mortar stores. Retailers are now incorporating technology in almost unpredictable ways to enhance the shopping experience.
Take Lowe’s, for example. As far back as 2015 they were recognized for their Holoroom Augmented Realty and Virtual Reality experience. The Holoroom allows customers to “populate a 3D space with actual products stocked by Lowe’s … and literally walk into it.” Retail Gazette asked Capgemeni retail management consultant Bhavesh Unadkat about customer experience in 2017, and he predicted that augmented reality and virtual reality (like virtual showrooms and fitting rooms) will become the norm this year.
Last year Lowe’s also introduced LoweBot, an “autonomous retail service robot” that helps customers navigate the store. The company explains their technological evolution on their website: “Lowe’s is working relentlessly to shape the future of retail and deliver simpler and more seamless interactions with its customers.”
Seamless interaction also seems to be the goal of Rebecca Minkoff’s smart dressing rooms, which allow customers to request items from a concierge through a touch-screen mirror in the fitting room. The mirrors, which also suggest related and matching items, tripled clothing sales in 2015.
Perhaps less exciting than virtual reality and robots (but just as important) is the technology that grocers are implementing to expand curbside pickup and delivery. Kroger, Walmart, Safeway, Harris Teeter, HEB, Randalls, and Whole Foods each offer curbside pickup and/or delivery, which all rely on new smartphone applications (or partnerships) and internal technological processes to fulfill.
Sam’s Club doesn’t offer curbside pickup, but they do offer in-store pickup, which includes groceries and fresh produce. In addition, they have a new app called Scan and Go, which allows in-store shoppers to scan their own items as they fill their carts and pay in the app. Items are checked by an associate as customers exit the stores, but the system frees shoppers from both waiting in line and unloading their carts.