The Big Disruptor is shaping the stores of the future
Let’s take a closer look at Amazon’s brick-and-mortar locations, which they started opening in 2015. They started with bookstore chain Amazon Books, then started testing AmazonFresh Pickup, a physical pickup location for its online grocery service.
In 2018 they launched cashierless food stores Amazon Go as well as Amazon 4-star, which sells its highest rated items. Meanwhile, they shut down dozens of their pop-up stores in malls across the US as they continue their great retail experiment.
Amazon stores aren’t just there to bring customers an in-store experience: they change their definition and their expectations of what an in-store experience is. Amazon Go, their most cutting-edge shops, use the computer vision, sensor fusion and deep machine learning technology used by self-driving cars to eliminate the entire check-out process.
Customers enjoy the novel experience of “just walking out” without lines, cashiers, or paper receipts. The tech giant uses its stores to showcase its offerings and pull customers into its wider universe of its products and services. They are keeping up their tradition of innovating and disrupting every sector they touch, raising the bar for competitors to offer more technology, quicker delivery and physical pick-up locations.
But Amazon’s experiments prove that on this new terrain, there are no hard-and-fast rules. A recent legislative backlash against cashless stores in the US led the e-giant to recently introduce a “new” option to avoid excluding those who don’t have bank accounts – paying with cold, hard cash.
Traditional retailers are innovating
Meanwhile, traditional retailers aren’t planning to get left behind: they’re jumping right in and are embracing the blend. Products ordered online are increasingly picked up at physical locations, and physical stores use digital and AI technology to customize the shopping experience and order out-of-stock products on the spot.
Nike’s new Nike by Melrose store in LA “has pop-up vibes, and it will operate like an experimental digital-meets-physical retail pilot.” The store uses digital commerce data to customize its offerings based on local preferences.
Customers wishing to make a return, exchange or purchase can send the store a “Swoosh Text” and then pull up to their Curb Service to get the goods.
There are also new power apps on the horizon like those of IKEA, who are integrating e-commerce into their augmented reality app Place, which lets you visualize how furniture pieces will look in your home.
And like Amazon, retailers like Belgian fashion chain JBC are embedding AI technology into their in-store experience, with “smart” fitting rooms that let you call up another size or color in a flash.
Connecting all the dots
What Amazon and traditional retailers are realizing is that customers don’t want to choose between on- and offline. Basically, they want to have their cake and eat it too. The new phygital reality requires marketing that merges two worlds while seamlessly communicating across a plethora of channels.
Businesses need to combine in-person contact and in-store experiences with phone, email, and social media without missing a beat in their interaction with the client.
Clever digital marketing approaches can guide customers to the physical store, while big data can feed traditional channels like print catalogues.
Digital technology has given printing professionals new tools to interact with their clients and create innovative marketing products. Clients want to hold on to the tangible nature of printed materials while integrating them with augmented reality experiences, social media campaigns and smartphone apps.
They also want get the most out face-to-face interaction while benefiting from the convenience of online – whether it’s by having a live conversation to help come up with a creative solution, or by stopping by the shop to pick up products they ordered online.
As brands and products become more integrated across different channels, it’s up to printers to bridge the gap and offer a total customer experience.
HERE’S THE THING
- The trend is offline and online merging into a universal customer experience:
can printing help bridge that gap?
- Convenience remains a powerful trigger:
What could be your offline and online ways to make life for your customers as easy as possible?
- Gathering and merging data from your customers interactions:
Can you make that work to improve on your offering?