Evolving the in-store experience: How retailers can get the most out of the festive season

Simon Wilson, CTO UK & I at HPE Aruba, discusses how the use of new technologies can help high street stores to boost their sales this holiday season.

With Halloween firmly in the rear-view mirror, retailers’ priorities will be solely focused on Christmas trade. For most brick-and-mortar stores, Christmas is a crucial point in the year to boost trading figures and off-set any slumps in the proceeding eleven months.

Online retail has been blamed a lot for retailer struggles over the past few years. However, there is more to the story of physical versus digital than meets the eye. In fact, internet sales still only represent a marginal amount of overall retail sales, signalling the continued consumer appetite for an in-person shopping experience.

So, with this in mind, how can retailers use physical stores to their advantage in the digital age and help drive Christmas sales?

1. Lean into what make the in-store shopping experience unique

First and foremost, traditional brick-and-mortar stores urgently need to start recognising the unique advantages their physical locations offer – and then using technology to enhance them.

These advantages include the opportunity for in-person interactions with retail staff (perfect for Christmas shoppers who are stuck for inspiration and in desperate need of advice), as well as the ability to create unique shared experiences that transcend traditional shopping routines. For instance, holiday travel companies are trialling virtual reality installations in-store, where shoppers can try out elements of the global Christmas holiday experience together.

Some retail stores have also adopted the idea of ‘reverse showrooming’, setting up immersive in-store experiences to entice consumers into visiting the products they researched online.

And it’s not just about providing an immersive experience. The technology must provide shoppers with the most convenient and personalised visit possible. A good example of this can be seen in some fitting rooms which use radio frequency identification technology (RFID) technology to recommend or co-ordinate items when a product is scanned.

2. Merge the online and in-store experience
Many retailers are investing in infrastructure that will allow them to offer consumers a truly omnichannel shopping experience. Traditionally, there was no connection made between what a shopper bought or looked at online and their behaviour in-store. To understand who the customer is, where they are, and their preferences, retailers are using analytics, location, and context, and seeing rising sales as a result.

By aligning back-end operations with front-end customer service and using technology at every step of the supply chain, the retail industry will start to get a single, multi-channel view of its omnichannel customers.

3. Gain better insight into stock and inventory
Many retailers fail to design their structure to the needs of modern customers and won’t have a precise picture of their inventory 24/7. Stock is typically siloed and allocated to different pools that serve the physical shop, ecommerce, pop-ups, and wholesale – an approach which is at odds in an omnichannel world and can put the physical store at a serious disadvantage.

Investing in the right technologies will enable retailers to monitor stock levels in real-time, and ensure they know exactly what they have. Not only will this avoid customer disappointment in out-of-stock items, but it maximises efficiencies, saving the retailer time and money in the long-run.

By embracing technology and redefining their stores for the digital age, physical retailers can really thrive during this increasingly tricky period. Wouldn’t that make for very festive tidings?

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