Online and In-Store: What Will The Blended Store Look Like?

We’ve all heard the key to omnichannel is successfully blending online and in-store. But what does that actually look like when you walk into the store of the future?

I can tell you what it doesn’t look like. Blending in-store and online doesn’t simply mean making your web site accessible in your store. Your customers can already do that via that small device that no person dares leave the house without these days. Ideally, (since this is the future) you’ve already invested in a great mobile website that your customers can access on their phones anytime they want – including when they’re shopping in your store. The experience you create has to offer more than what customers can already do for themselves.

Blending in-store and online doesn’t simply mean making your web site accessible in your store.

Blending in-store and online also doesn’t mean flying off the handle by adding every shiny new piece of retail technology that pops up seemingly overnight. It has to make sense. Tech for the sake of tech without a rhyme or reason behind it will undoubtedly be a costly mistake.

So what does it mean?… Well for starters, blend” is the operative word.

When bringing technology into your stores, it’s important not to forget what makes the physical store different from online shopping – the human element, the ability to touch and feel, and the experience that you can create for your customers. Technology needs to mix with these elements, not replace them.

For instance, when implementing new technology such as endless aisle, the solution should blend into your store design and be positioned amongst your merchandise displays as a literal extension of your shelf. It should feel natural for a customer who is looking at a particular physical item, to then move to interacting with the screen to find complementary items that interest them. It should feel curated while bringing in that feeling of online shopping where the customer knows they can find and purchase exactly what they are looking for.

Whether it’s endless aisle or any other technology, it’s important the tools you implement assist your sales associates, to help take them to the next level in customer service. Can they use it to guide customers through the research and comparison phase? Can they share a screen and make suggestions that leave your customers feeling like they got the product that was perfect for them? And just as importantly, is the solution intuitive enough that the customer can use it as a self-serve option if that is their preferred method of shopping? Ultimately, are you prescribing a one-size fits all” experience or are you letting your customers choose how they want to shop in your stores?

In the store of the future (albeit, the not too distant future), the technology you implement should feel like a natural extension of your brand. It should fit in seamlessly with the experience your customers want without getting in the way of the things people already love; the things that compel them to get off the couch and walk into your store.

The above post was a contributed article to Retail TouchPoint’s special report, Store of the Future: Staying Relevant For The Evolving Shopper Journey.