Embracing the Digital Future of the Retail Experience
Between 2010 and 2015, foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores plummeted by 57%. It’s never been easier to buy something online with a couple clicks or taps—which means traditional retailers need to start thinking digitally to attract new customers.
Fortunately, it’s not all doom and gloom for retail. More than playing catch-up with e-commerce, digital solutions also pose a powerful opportunity. According to ComQi, a proud partner of Panasonic, more than 90% of all shopping transactions still happen inside physical retail locations—and digital signage can add an upswing in overall sales by 31.8%. And signs are just the beginning: technology looks to transform almost every aspect of the in-person shopping experience.
The Possibilities Are Endless: Examples of On-Site Digital Solutions for Retail
While digital signage is a pretty clear update of an analog tool, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital retail solutions. Apparel stores are increasingly outfitting their fitting rooms with smart mirrors that allow shoppers to change the light, explore inventory, and request new clothes. Panasonic also provides smart mirrors installed in cosmetic stores that use video technology to let you preview different makeup styles in a matter of taps.
The opportunities of retail technology aren’t limited to traditional “stores” either: at Ford dealerships across the world, Panasonic developed a solution working with the Ford Global Retail Strategy team to help the brand add touchscreens and LEDs where potential customers can scroll through services, explore new cars, see their vehicle getting serviced in real-time, and watch TV or movies while they wait.
Beyond using existing technology in creative new ways, retail tech is also pushing the boundaries of what’s possible: take Link Ray, for instance, an exciting new innovation from Panasonic. Imagine passing by a store window, seeing something you like, holding your smartphone up to the display, and instantly getting more information and a 20% discount on it.
Link Ray allows digital screens and lights to emit encoded signals through a flashing LED beam; imperceptible to the human eye, the signal can be read by consumers’ smartphones and then lead them to more information about the product, possibly coupled with promotional discounts and purchasing calls-to-action.
Not all retail tech is consumer-facing, either: newer digital solutions help stores manage everything from inventory to traffic flow. Recent video technology can even track customers flow as they walk through the retail environment, noting dwell time, demographics, and dispatching extra sales staff to popular areas or consumers who seem to need assistance.
Panasonic has deployed such a solution for Ford’s new FordHub storefront in New York City’s Westfield World Trade Center. The custom solution can measure dwell time in front of different displays, track foot traffic in and out, and help the company make the most of its new storefront.
How to Start Implementing Retail Technology: Best Practices
Start With Your Needs, Not The Tech
Rob Zeller, the Director of Sales for Panasonic Digital Networks, recommends taking time with your chosen tech vendor to totally express your business needs before settling on a solution. “The more open clients are about their challenges—without relating it to technology—the more we can step in to offer efficient solutions,” he says.
With Panasonic’s massive portfolio of technology, it’s better to start with the business challenges directly—there’s a good chance that Panasonic can offer an appropriate solution that the client doesn’t know about.
From mobile point-of-sale solutions, to video analytics with floor plan heat maps, to completely customized solutions, there’s almost no end to what the vendor can offer, so it’s best not to go in with a specific solution in mind. By starting with your particular business needs, you allow the experts to help you find the best tools to achieve your goals.
The future of retail is closely tied to new forms of in-person digital engagement—and in many ways, that future is already here. As competitors clamor to take advantage of this new technology, it’s up to brick-and-mortar brands to embrace these digital tools and usher in a new age for the in-person retail industry.
Pilot, Pilot, Pilot
Even when brands know about the possibilities of retail tech, it can be difficult to know where to start. “Too many retailers sit on the sidelines with analysis paralysis,” says Stuart Armstrong, Group President and Chief Revenue Officer at ComQi.
Instead, he recommends jumping in on a smaller scale and pivoting quickly. “The technology itself is proven: it’s about learning what works for your particular needs. You’ve got to pilot, pilot, pilot. Fail fast: get it out there, try it, tweak it, and if it doesn’t work, pull it. If it works rollout quickly to gain the benefit. If you’re standing still, you’re going back,” he counsels.
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