When someone says “retail” probably the first thing that comes to your mind is a normal supermarket. Or maybe, now that we’re all used to online shopping you would probably picture browsing through a web page. But did you know that the next big step towards the future of retail is the convergence of both the physical and the digital elements? In other words, combining the supermarkets or shopping complexes with web pages, apps and other digital media is what makes the future of retail entrepreneurship.

Last year, the French cosmetic chain Sephora stepped into this new era of retail by combining its in-store and digital teams to build a whole new customer experience. This change has seen a boost in their revenues and the technology has helped them with developing much more effective customer experience personalization. Here are a few ways in which Sephora has merged their physical and digital aspects:

Different retail experience in Sephora

Makeover try-outs

Sephora uses an augmented reality app in their store that helps shoppers try out various products virtually before deciding whether to buy them or not. This app also stores details of the products they tried out at the store, in the customer profile and allows them to purchase them online later on.

360 degree customer view

With the digitization of retail stores it is much easier to gather more and more customer data. With their latest advancements, Sephora has been rebuilding their customer profiles into 360 degree customer view that tracks not only online purchases but also online browsing, in-store purchases as well as interactions with sales people. This feature is key in enhancing customer experience personalization and in the long term, retaining customer loyalty.

Many other businesses have begun to realize the long term benefits of this revolution. The Mexican restaurant chain Wahaca, American frozen food brand Bird’s eye and Australian women’s clothing chain Sportsgirl are a few that have taken the next step towards digital and physical integration in the retail front.

How can you benefit from it?

Adopt Bricks and Clicks strategy

When you’re planning your business strategy, make sure that you incorporate both digital and physical elements in the process. The key is to get as creative as you can while exploring consumer demands that aren’t already met or that have been met but needs revival. Try to approach issues with a simplification mindset; Sephora uses AR and a mobile app to make trying out products in-store much easier. Likewise it’s important to prioritize your customer’s convenience when merging digital with physical.

Studies have proved that the more channels you have for customers to access you, the more money they spend. When it comes to statistics, customers using four or more channels to shop spent an average of 9% more than those who shop through a single channel.

Improving data collection and interactive communication with customers

One great way to make sure that the digital and physical elements co-function effectively is to improve the customer data collection system. Information is the most important gear for survival as a business and enhancing data gathering systems to pay attention to the tiniest details possible is promising. Use 360 degree customer view like Sephora does to track both online AND offline activities of customers.  Linking physical and digital in this process can help the retail experience become much more real-time.

Having a great rapport going on with your customers is equally important. With communication however it’s a chance to let your creativity take over. Proper communication with customers not only helps the data collection process but it also repaints the brand image. A conversation on how convenient mobile apps are to retail can be a place to start.

Provide a unified brand experience

Studies have shown that 40% of customers are much more interested in shopping where they can get a personalized experience across all channels. If you think of yourself as a consumer you’d know what I’m talking about. Again this is all about offering convenience. We all love to shop with a brand that makes you feel like it just gets you. This can be achieved by incorporating all digital and physical channels to work cohesively and make the customer experience much more wholesome.

Imagine you run a restaurant chain and your website and customer profiles are linked to your physical store. When a customer checks in for a meal, you display on a digital screen, recommendations, specials, new arrivals etc. that suit their preferences based on their profile data and searches and inquiries on the website. Something like this could be a massive step towards better customer attraction and loyalty.

IoT (Internet of Things) is one big emerging trend that you can incorporate into your retail experience to make it all the more cohesive. Loyalty cards that also act as customer ID’s, linked to their online customer profiles, can be distributed among your regulars to turn their simple shopping session into a much more interesting and convenient experience.

We never thought that conversations about the retail world could be so interesting! But here we are in a new digital age where instead of giving way to digital alone, we have evolved to make something much more wholesome and effective. If you are in the retail business it’s time for you to change the game and renew your pace. Good luck! Reach out to us if you have any concerns, suggestions or general feedback.