Multi-channel retailing set to save physical stores

By emulating the advantages online stores hold, physical retailers can offer the best of both worlds says Jason Glynne, head of business solutions at Box Technologies

It’s no surprise to hear that the emergence of online retail has posed a serious challenge to established brands. In 2014, the number of online transactions increased by 17%, reaching £42 billion, according to market intelligence firm Euromonitor. In order to provide customers with the convenience they have become accustomed to, high street stores are implementing many of the same features found online, successfully replicating the online experience, in store.

By embracing multi-channel, or “omni-channel,” retailing, these brands are using connectivity to hold their own against this market sea change and seeing impressive results.

Aided by new technology, physical stores are gaining the ability to emulate the level of convenience and marketing techniques that have found success online, while also capitalising on the personal and interactive experience that only a physical store can provide. Through a wide array of retail solutions, shopping is becoming more engaging than ever.

Beyond the shop window

One inventive use of technology is digital signage, which presents a cost-effective and modern way for retailers to inform consumers of their brand, products and promotions using multimedia content.

Unlike a traditional display, digital signage can deploy touch screens and similar technologies to create interactive audio/visual displays that encourage customers to interact with their brand – conveniently browsing the retailer’s catalogue, for example.

The customisation of such content provides a great solution for retailers with multiple sites especially, as it allows them to target specific demographics, broadcasting only the most effective content to each individual store. Should a large retailer choose to install multiple digital signage units in a single store, they can narrow their scope even further to target customers likely to spend time in a certain area of the shop. This content can be displayed on nearly any device connected to the Internet, ensuring it is always current.

Instant satisfaction

Perhaps the largest issue in store retailers have to overcome is that of queues.

A recent study conducted by Box Technologies and Intel revealed that 41% of shoppers have abandoned a purchase due to long queue times, while 86% will avoid a shop altogether if they feel the queue is too long. This problem does not exist online, nor does it have to be an issue in physical stores.

By equipping sales assistants with handheld tablets, retailers can minimise the amount of time customers must spend waiting in queue or for their queries to be answered. Product information and availability will always be on-hand and easy to access for staff, allowing them to always remain with the customer. These tablets can also be enabled to process payments, taking the point of sale from behind the counter and straight to where customers are making purchase decisions.

In store technology – be it the use of tablets, digital signage and other technology – provides physical retailers with the tools necessary to build a modern, convenient shopping experience. By implementing methods found online, conventional brands can focus on strengths that can only be delivered in a physical space, giving customers the best of both worlds.

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