Touch: the future of in-store retail

Retailers are looking for ways to facilitate online and offline integration, and simplify the deployment and management of in-store technology. This is a great step towards increased sales for bricks-and-mortar stores, as one benefit physical stores will always have over online retailers is the ability for the consumer to see, touch, taste and try things before making a purchase.

Research shows that bricks-and-mortar stores are still the preferred shopping outlets for most consumers. Reports by IBM and the National Retail Federation say that despite being digitally native, Generation Z still prefers to shop in physical stores. And with the global Gen Z population set to reach 2.6 billion by 2020, retailers need to create more interactive engagement around their brands to serve this always-on, mobile-focused and high-spending demographic. They expect a more personalised and engaging shopping experience, whether it’s online or in-store.

“Advancements in touchscreen technology are uniquely positioned to help deliver a cost-effective solution,” says Maarten Bais, vice president and general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Elo. “As experts in touch technology, we learnt through research and experience how touch is such a basic human instinct. The same goes for in-store. Shoppers still want to touch, feel and try the products before buying. By taking advantage of these key needs, which can’t be replicated online, retailers can accompany shoppers all the way through their buying journey.”

An in-store touchscreen can bring all the benefits of online shopping into the physical store. Integrating any digital component into a store, even on a small scale, will create an improved customer experience that gives shoppers the best of both worlds. By bringing the website or app in-store, retailers are creating an instant omnichannel experience, while extending the value of their current marketing investment, all with very little change to existing content.

For many retailers, in-store e-commerce has become a way to improve customer service, facilitate transactions and deliver an integrated technology experience. Having a payment option at the point of purchase, instead of directing the customer towards a counter with a long line, can make a difference for the tech-savvy shopper. A customer can complete the purchase right from the virtual fitting room or through an interactive terminal while having the item in hand or fresh in their mind, Retailers can instantly add extra options based on loyalty points, shopper behaviour or search history.

It does not mean store associates are no longer needed. It adds to their role, giving them time to get from behind the counter to interact with the customer, giving advice, checking the inventory and improving the customer service.

Shoppers still want to touch, feel and try the products before buying

But it’s not just a gut feeling that touchscreens are improving the in-store shopping experience. Using data and analytics, it’s easy to measure the return on investment of interactive merchandising solutions, for example by using data capture through intelligent cameras and touchscreens, peer-to-peer Bluetooth (beacon technology), RFID (radio-frequency identification), motion sensors, touchpoint analytics and geo-fencing.

It’s possible to analyse visual reactions when people look, touch or select a product. Beacon technology is already being used for location-based marketing purposes, but combined with advanced analytics, smart devices and internet of things-based technology, it will enable retailers to improve understanding and personalisation of the shopping experience.

The bricks-and-mortar shopping experience is evolving rapidly and changing for the good. Tomorrow’s in-store shopping experience will be more interactive through state-of-the-art touch technology, more personalised through the smarter use of data capture and analytics, and more mobile through commercial-grade mobile point-of-sale and deployment of mobile apps. Bottom line… good for the shopper, good for the retailer.

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