A Digital Shopping Experience: Coming Soon to a Mall Near You

If you’ve ever watched a makeup tutorial on YouTube, you’re familiar with how difficult it is to replicate. But with the help of retail technology company Memomi, Neiman Marcus now has a smart MemoryMirror at its cosmetics counter that will record your makeover session in the perfect light and note all the products used. The video can then be sent to your phone, allowing you to use it as a tutorial when you get home, or to share sections with your friends for their input.

A similar mirror will take video clips of you wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses and then let you compare up to four different styles side by side. A big benefit here is the ability to see what new frames look like on you, even when it’s hard to see because you don’t have your own glasses on! This input can lead you to a great purchase — and give Neiman Marcus valuable feedback about your selections.

Both investments in the shopping experience are bold moves in an economy where online shopping is maturing and offline sales are stalling. Foot traffic is down, more retailers have filed for bankruptcy to date in 2017 compared to all of 2016, and shopping malls are increasingly becoming relics of an American past. Yet, for savvy retailers, technology holds the key not only to growing their online business but also to saving their “brick and mortar” stores.

“A retailer’s challenge today is that people are staying at home and shopping online,” says Dawn Burrows, senior program manager for the Adobe@Adobe Innovation Team. “They are trying to get people to come back into the store, and one of the ways they’re doing that is to bring digital experiences into the actual physical space.”

The rich experiences stores are fashioning today may radically change the way you view in-store shopping in the future. From smart mirrors to augmented reality (AR) to entertainment, retail brands are experimenting with all types of technology to make your trip to their store time well spent, for both you and them.

Experiencing the Future

The real challenge of bringing technology to the store is to ensure it is used in a way that moves beyond the “wow” factor and adds value to your shopping experience. If retailers get that right, the outcome also will tie back to their goals of getting you to make a purchase, and then keeping you coming back for more.

Augmented reality (AR). Imagine walking by a store and having relevant information delivered to your phone based on your personal preferences. Once in the store, an AR headset or glasses can help you compare products, view details, and even scroll through reviews on social media simply by looking at the merchandise in your hand.

Add in social sharing technology and the possibilities go much further. Think about tagging specific merchandise with AR notes that you share with your friends — whether you are sharing what you love for yourself or making recommendations for others.

AR also provides entertainment value. Nathan Carr, principal research scientist at Adobe, says, “Imagine stores decking out their entire display with holiday decorations that you can only see through your AR glasses. This would be an AR application to drive foot traffic — an entertaining way to attract people to come out of their homes and want to go into public spaces because there is a rich, interactive experience awaiting them. It could literally be snowing in the mall with reindeer walking through the halls.” Any number of 3D-overlay interactions can enhance the shopping experience and at the same time create word-of-mouth advertising as the experience is again shared on social media.

Merchantainment. Retailers face a mounting challenge to get you into their stores when more and more people seek the convenience of shopping online. Similar to the entertainment-focused application of AR, retailers are bringing merchandising and entertainment together. Michael Klein, director of industry strategy for the Adobe Experience Cloud, calls this “merchantainment.”

“Merchantainment is a great strategy for retailers to incorporate technology for a personal experience without getting too personal,” says Michael. “Over 80 percent of customers who walk into a retail store want to be anonymous, which translates to ‘Do not start coming up to me just because I have your app on my phone and it told you who I am’.”

Smart displays offer a personal touch while allowing you, the customer to maintain control. For example, if you love running and you’re looking for new shoes, a store’s display could help you test out your gait and stride and determine which shoe will help you strike the ground correctly. Or maybe you went to an in-store yoga or meditation class offered at a store selling yoga outfits, and you bought some new gear while you were there.

Increasing foot traffic through attractive entertainment and lifestyle experiences — high-tech or not — is a strategy that many retailers will pursue aggressively in the future.

Speedy checkout. Store owners are focusing investments on ways to help make the purchase process more simple and painless. Right now, mobile payments are actually a lot faster than chip cards, but a lot of customers just haven’t realized it yet. Michael says, “I think you’re going to continue to see adoption there. It’s really more about marketing it and getting people to understand the value of it.”

Some retailers are pushing the boundaries of mobile payments by eliminating the checkout process altogether. For example, Walmart is rolling out its Scan & Go app that allows you to scan items with your smartphone as you put them in your cart, total the purchase on your phone and generate a receipt, bypass the checkout line, and exit the store hassle free.

Amazon is also experimenting with eliminating checkout lines. At the Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle, shoppers — currently limited to Amazon employees — scan their phone on the way into the store, shop, and then walk right out without stopping to pay at a cashier or kiosk. Their Amazon account is simply charged for items taken, which are identified through a combination of AI, computer vision, and data pulled from multiple sensors.

Creating Value with Every Experience

Current and future technology is on the cusp of radically improving how you experience shopping — and how marketers can understand that experience. Like the video below highlights, imagine salespeople who can see in real time which products and displays are appealing to which customers. Suddenly, a store associate instantly knows what the hot items are and who is buying them, ultimately making them better equipped to provide you with a great shopping experience.

Smart mirrors at Neiman Marcus are a great example of how the future of retail clearly lies with technology that will reflect value between you and marketers to make it a win-win for their sales goals and your ultimate shopping experience.

Watch the video below from our Tech Summit this year to see more in-store technology applications that can help personalize your shopping experience.

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