How Retailers Are Bridging the Physical/Digital Gap

With Shoptalk 2017 behind us, I've enjoyed reading the recap and takeaway posts that are circulating. But rather than providing another interpretation of all of Shoptalk's overarching themes, I want to focus on just one that I heard during various presentations: How retailers are creating hybrid experiences to bring their customers the best of both stores and online/mobile.

  1. Although Kohl's announced plans to move to smaller store formats, part of the company's steep investment in technology is allocated toward integrating stores and online. Much of the focus is on improving customer experience, but Kohl's hasn't ignored the operational technology that can better power associates. Enhancing inventory visibility and management has paid off, with 1/3 of Q4 orders fulfilled by or picked up in stores. Separately, Kohl's has approached its mobile app development with an eye toward making in-store shopping more convenient.
  2. Nordstrom explained it competes on fashion authority, service, and experience, and discussed efforts to compete on these dimensions in an online/offline way. Specifically, shoppers can explore merchandise online or on mobile and request certain items be set up in an in-store dressing room in the right size. Or, when entering a store, a visitor might receive a notification with suggested items to complement what she's bought from Nordstrom (online or in-store) in the past.
  3. At Ralph Lauren, the dressing rooms themselves feature technology. These "smart mirrors" detect what's in the room and recommend additional items a customer might want to try on or buy from online. Users of this mirror buy 59% more than non-users.
  4. Aldo is another retailer, this one in the shoe and accessories space, that leverages technology that both store visitors and store associates use. The interactive display screen and the employee devices allow visibility not just into what's available in the store (without waiting for a stock room check) but also into what's available online. This is operationally efficient, as well as a driver of incremental sales.

While we all know the majority of retail growth will come from e-commerce, the retailers above are recognizing their stores are still assets to be maximized and the customers entering those stores are ones who continue to be highly valuable. That's why this is an exciting topic to me. It's also why I'm enthusiastic about Euclid Analytics, my client that did not ask me to post this but that leverages in-store Wi-Fi to build complete customer profiles for cross-channel marketing use. A win-win-win when it comes to bridging the physical/digital gap and rounding out the customer experience with thoughtful, personalized marketing.