The e-commerce experience has undoubtedly evolved over the past two decades and many retailers are continuing to implement strategic and innovative online selling tactics to help advance their businesses and increase their bottom lines.
One of the most common trends we have seen evolve online is the rise of social commerce. Simply put, social commerce is a revamp and evolution of e-commerce that leverages social interactions and user contributions on social media to assist in the online purchasing and selling of products and services. Research predicts that social commerce will reach $30 billion in sales per year by 2015 with 50% of web sales occurring through social media. To put things into perspective, $3.8 billion of Facebook’s revenue in 2011 came from businesses advertising their products and services on the platform.
Since we live in a world that is ruled by digital and social media, these advances to e-commerce are imperative, yet there seems to be an obvious disconnect in the experience that consumers have when they visit brick-and-mortar retail shops.
But how will the social integration that’s represented online be reflected in the actual in-store retail experience? That’s when social commerce takes a shift and brings digital and social technology into the brick-and-mortar stores by putting consumers in the driver’s seat. Digital point-of-sale has traditionally involved an electronic checkout system and in-store screens that were used solely for signage and advertising. But today, a new generation of digital point-of-sale technology is advancing retail for the connected age we live in.
Back in 2012, beauty retailer Sephora initiated a few digital operations to strategically connect current and potential customers to the brand. Their mobile and digital advancements included personalized web experiences, a new mobile site, and an iPhone app. Many brands are hesitant to integrate digital into the in-store shopping experience, but Sephora took a risk and stands behind the decision.
“Sephora is embracing it as a way to connect with customers on the devices they use most and keep them engaged and informed of trends,” said Julie Bornstein, Sephora Direct’s senior vice president. “You can easily scan a product on the iPad and see what others say about it, or you can even look-up your own personal shopping history to find the right product.”
With the intentions of translating the functionalities and experience customers encounter on Burberry’s website, the iconic British luxury brand decided to turn its London flagship store into a brick-and-mortar replica of it’s site. “Most of us are very digital in our daily lives now. Burberry is a young team and this is instinctive to us,” says Christopher Bailey, the firm’s chief creative officer. Appropriately referred to as, ‘Burberry World Live,’ the brand effortlessly integrates digital elements that include a number of full-length screens around the store which can be switched to act as mirrors when needed and has a giant screen within the center of the atrium around which a stage can be erected in order to host in-store gigs.
Clothing items have also been equipped with radio-frequency identification technology that allows for multi-media content (such as a runway clip of an item) to be triggered when placed near a mirror. And just when the customer is ready to check out, rather than heading to a cash register and waiting in line, they are likely to be directed to a sofa by a sales staff, then handed a swipe machine to pay for their items which have already been wrapped and bagged.
American luxury department store, Neiman Marcus, worked with Signature to develop a custom iPhone app to help facilitate communications between stores and customers. The app, NM Service allows customers to see which sales associates are currently in the store, send them messages and make appointments with their favorite sales associates. It helps consumers stay connected with store events, mark their favorite products which will automatically be visible to their selected sales associates and scan QR codes to unlock product information and trends.
Neiman Marcus sales associates can automatically access customer’s shopping history in order to make smarter recommendations about which products are right for each of their customers. NM Service is currently being piloted at four Neiman Marcus locations: San Francisco, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Neiman Marcus’s flagship store in Dallas, Texas.
Because consumers are used to shopping online, they are starting to expect the same convenience and comfort of e-commerce when they venture into the store. The smart use of in-store technologies and innovations ultimately delivers a consistent association between the brand’s physical and digital worlds. Soon enough, this integration will be the difference between companies that succeed and the companies that fail.