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We’ve looked previously at the state of digital retail in London and found that bricks and mortar, in most cases, is still exactly that.

A lack of wi-fi and interactive devices was identified as an issue for Oxford Street's retailers. 

Of more interest, perhaps, is not the overall picture, but how individual retailers are using technology, how this affects the customer experience and for what product types.

Home electrical, technology and automotive retailers have been shown to make greater use of digital media in-store. These products are purchased by informed customers and part of the in-store experience is about providing the customer with information via digital devices.

Of course, many of the products in these sectors are digital themselves and are on display for use in store.

80% of the home electrical/technology retailers on Oxford and Regent Streets had interactive devices for customers to use, versus just 16% of fashion, shoe and accessories retailers.

But let’s look at some specific retailers for best practice or otherwise. Again, this information comes from eccomplished's latest research.

Audi

There's little space for actual cars in the Audi store, so floor-to-ceiling digital panels show different views of cars for sale.

All information is available through digital devices and salespeople carried them out of course.

With automotive being a sector that uses technological advancement as a marketing tool, it’s obvious this approach will create an attractive environement.

Apple 

Rightly well-known as a pioneer of digital in store, Apple has been doing this for years.

Apple showcases its own technology in-store and thereby disrupts the usual atmosphere of browsing. The shop floor is pretty much stock free and the emphasis is on using the products and interacting with customer service representative.

Aside from this, Apple provides:

  • Good delivery of free-Wi-Fi.
  • Charging points for customer mobile devices.
  • In-store, face-to-face customer service via the genius bar.
  • Payment with Apple ID or payment cards to roaming salespeople not tied to a till.

All of these features are designed to make Apple stores destinations for shoppers, an experience and not simply shopping. They just happen to be digital features, but ones that customers appreciate.

Knowing that wi-fi, web browsing on iPads and charge points are available is a big drawer for customers. Imagine if Apple had toilets! I’m joking there, I think.

Anthropologie

Décor and apparel, perhaps a sector where technology’s impact isn’t as well-proven in-store.

Indeed, Anthropologie doesn’t rival Apple or Audi, but its free wi-fi was reported as being one of the best of all those assessed.

Anthropologie has a strong Instagram community because of its aesthetically lovely products. The stores are canvasses for the products and are often stunning. They lend themselves to lots of social interaction in-store and the great wi-fi access capitalises on this.

This maximisation of social activity through merchandising and good wi-fi is a smart strategy.

Burberry

Burberry is now well known for its digital presence. Lots of devices in store to showcasing products is used well to create space. It’s been open for a year and includes:

  • a 22ft digital screen.
  • speakers and stage.
  • RFiD tags in clothing that activate mirrors when customers try a garment. The mirrors show video about the making of the piece and its time on the catwalk.

Although this is all exemplary in helping to differentiate Burberry from other high fashion houses, eccomplished’s survey did pick up on the fact that some shoppers weren’t clear on how the mirrors worked. This confused some customers.

Of course, with any pioneer, there are bound to be some users that feel a little left behind but Burberry has done well to blend digital fairly seamlessly in to the shopping experience.

The store is also a good venue for events, fitting nicely into Burberry’s content marketing strategy.

KIKO and Primark

Digital signage is used well by these very different retailers.

In Primark’s case, large screens showcase products outside stores. KIKO uses a digital ceiling to attract attention from passing trade.

Liberty, Guess and Hollister

All conspicuous for their lack of wi-fi.

As one Liberty shopper comments:

There are so many ‘instagrammable’ pieces in the store. They are missing out by not having Wi-Fi for people to upload their images. (I had to wait until I got home and nearly forgot!)

And in Guess:

I wish there was Wi-Fi in the store so that I could send my boyfriend pictures of what I’m expecting for christmas.

And Hollister:

Shoppers were reminded to download the app at the checkout via a small digital sign. However, no in-store Wi-Fi meant that it couldn’t actually be done!

If shoppers want to talk about your brand socially, you should enable that. Likewise, if you want them to download an app, don’t prompt them to do it on their stingy cellular network.

This chart from jWire shows what impact wi-fi can have attracting customers. However, even if shoppers aren’t consciously seeking out wi-fi, providing it is paramount to allowing spontaneous sharing.

Reiss

Maybe it’s arbitrary to include Reiss in this section, as they make a mistake that many likely do.

It was annoying that I had to sign up with REISS emails to log into the Wi-Fi. I already receive email updates from them, so this seemed pointless.

This signing up for w-fi is a good way to get customer data and isn’t necessarily a bad move, as long as sign-up is quick and easy. If customers are already in your database, linking datasets and allowing people to sign-in in store will furnish your CRM system with lots of useful extra information to retarget customers with.

L’Occitane

L’Occitane has cramped stores, as one shopper pointed out.

It’s debatable whether the ‘smellies’ market could benefit from digital in-store, given the defiantly olfactory nature of the products on offer. It’s also a market that likes to stack stuff high as a bottle of perfume or a candle on a shelf looks a bit naff.

However, perhaps screens could be used to evoke some of the refined country atmosphere of Provence that L’Occitane is going for?

 

Swarovski

For those not fans of the crystal vertical, the stores can seem a bit of a mystery (like this sentence).

Another shopper commented:

The brand seems a bit dated without digital in-store. I’m surprised that they don’t even have digital advertisements on the walls

Perhaps the manufacture of the crystals is something to shroud rather than expose. Holding on to the mystery may help. And perhaps screens would lower the tone, but iPads to display the catalogue would give customers reason to linger longer and create more of a buzz, something that is often lacking around Swarovski stores.

Abercrombie & Fitch

Although its app was advertised at the tills, customers were not encouraged to interact with the brand through social media.

Tezenis

One customer stated of the Tezenis store:

The lack of digital interaction makes the store look like a ‘one-off’ and not the international chain that it is.

Perhaps this hints at an interesting change in mindset of some audiences in Gen Y (or Z). Is some sort of nod to digital needed to bring prestige to an apparel retailer?

On this front it’s unclear but certainly digital has allowed some in this list to differentiate themselves, others to increase social activation, others to sell complex products efficiently.

Digital in store clearly is starting to make a difference. 

Ben Davis

Published 14 February, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)

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Magnetic Whiteboards

Really nice information...

about 2 years ago

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Alec East

This is a very helpful round-up, thanks. Physical stores have had technology in them for years, of course, but it's the increased emphasis integration that is the interesting thing for me. Brands are slowly realising the opportunity that tech offers for creating an overall brand experience, both before and after-sales and how a joined-up (and long term view) can generate greater benefits.

Burberry began to implement an internal digital transformation policy about 5 years ago and were well underway two years later. At that time it was still quite pioneering so it's no surprise they have made the occasional wrong turn as they pushed into uncharted areas. The difference is, by embracing it early on, they have set themselves apart and will have a lot more experience of what works and how to get the best out of digital than their competitors.

Everyone and their cat is doing content marketing now, but those with experience can still set themselves apart.

about 2 years ago

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Pari Wright

Great article - I'm just surprised JLR wasn't mentioned for their virtual showrooms.

about 2 years ago

Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Never shy to blow the schuh trumpet, I was at a conference last year and we were picked out as having gotten the highest marks in a mystery shop of about 20 stores in Oxford St, looking specifically at out use of technology in-store.

We got top marks not for flashy tech (don't get me wrong, I love the Burberry Regent St store), but for actual practical use of tech to help customers. For example, a slick customer ordering system that gets the products to the customer quickly and easily from any location. We were also highly complimented on our staff who actually knew how to use the systems as well as their ready ability to walk customers through our website on their mobile phones.

It may not feel like "digital on the high street", but we have a single view of stock, allowing any unit of stock to be sold from any location, you can check and reserve, click and collect, Shutl it to you in 90 mins. All these things are of course, digital.

We're now rolling out mobile payment points, much like the apple hand-held devices.

We're not flashy, but we're pretty damn efficient! And providing added value to the customer.

about 2 years ago

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