How brick and mortar retail can use to maximise profits
David Ripert, CEO and co-founder of Poplar Studio and Chapter President of the UK VR/AR Association.
Retail stores are bouncing back following a tormentous year due to the global pandemic. As the general public become more used to the ‘new normal’, brick and mortar stores are seeing a good influx of customer sales, keeping the industry above inflation at a robust 6.5% growth over the last twelve months. Moreover, ecommerce is booming at around 15.4% growth year-on-year. The effects of the pandemic hit brick and mortar much harder than the digital retail sector – however the early growth as we exit panic mode is an incredibly positive sign.
There is an opportunity that can be optimised by brick and mortar retail stores in the development of technology that ecommerce has enjoyed. This comes in the form of customer experience and understanding how modern technology can play a huge part in the continued growth of traditional retail.
Exclusive offerings and adopting digital tendencies
The opportunity for customers to visualise a product prior to purchase either online or in store is a massive advantage to retailers and customers alike. With a digital presence playing a big impact on things like time saved, a willingness to purchase and a warmer relationship between customer and product, marketers and retailers can begin to really understand when and what purchases are being made and by whom.
Virtual avatars, 3D models and AR technology can be utilised incredibly well in store. With the evolution of technology, shoppers could simply scan a QR code in store on an item of clothing or a product and visualise it in their environment, on their own body, or on a virtual avatar of themselves, allowing them to see what the item will look like on them. These technologies allow shoppers to try on a variation of colours, fits and styles to match their aesthetic, taste and to see if it suits them. The benefits of this are vast, especially in the wake of the pandemic where people are more conscious of touch and germs than ever before. Being able to virtually, and accurately, try on an item is a great advantage to the in store shopping experience, for customers and retailers alike.
Social media plays a big role in today’s retail environment as customers view these platforms as a way to connect, relate and discuss a brand or shop. Augmented reality (AR) and 3D Modelling are facilitating the way that consumers make purchases digitally through social media and ecommerce stores, but traditional brick and mortar need to have a digital presence to accommodate the consumer shopping trends and experience.
Exclusive in-store items are becoming more popular and prevalent. As digital embraces the world of NFTs, retail holds the key to exclusivity and creates a fear of missing out on real-life customer experiences. As an example, a brick and mortar store is able to house exclusive events for networking, or pop-ups in collaboration with other brands or individuals. The ability to introduce digital technologies into these exclusive experiences for retail is a really exciting feat and one to definitely watch out for in the future.
The continued emphasis on health and safety will be a big focus for the retail and hospitality sectors. Not only does this allow for customers to feel comfortable and able to maintain their own preferred distancing from other customers, it gives retailers and brands an opportunity to maximise engagement throughout the shopping experience.
Augmented reality and 3D modelling tech can be used for shop owners to display the full range of products in store which also helps with overcoming stock issues. Through AR and 3D technology such as “magic mirrors” and product visualisation experiences, customers are able to visualise products in 3D or on their own bodies by standing in front of in-store screens, or by scanning QR codes with their smartphone that will trigger the experiences in their own mobile devices. This allows retailers to provide the same amount of stock or colour options as customers would have access to online, but in store. AR and 3D can help increase customer confidence and are proven ways to increase sales and reduce returns, leading to 90% improved sales conversion rates.
For clothing products that AR is still unable to visualise—due to body tracking still being a maturing technology—brands are finding creative solutions around the restrictions by providing consumers with virtual avatars. These virtual avatars are 3D models of customers’ bodies that are created using volumetric capture. While brands such as Ralph Lauren are already taking advantage of virtual avatars through their use of Snapchat Bitmojis, in the future we can expect virtual avatars to become incredibly hyper-realistic as the technology continues to be advanced and developed. Customers will be able to create an avatar of themselves in stores that are equipped with the technology, and then use these avatars to try on the brand’s catalogue, whether in-store or later on at home.
Through utilising technologies that ecommerce sites are already exploring, as well as future tech, we can create immersive and engaging experiences in store that can replicate the ecommerce sites. The natural pull and somewhat nostalgic feeling that going to the shops creates for consumers is an absolutely unmatched and unique consumer necessity. Shopping, whether it be online or in-store is highly influenced by the experience – and customers are more than happy to speak about their experience, whether it’s positive or not. It’s important that as shoppers return to brick and mortar stores that their experience is a positive one.
To find out more about Poplar Studio, click here.
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