dressing room

What does a typical shopping trip look like? In just the past few years, the answer has changed dramatically to include technologies like smartphones and tablets, omnichannel experiences like ship-to-store, etc.

How different might our shopping trip look in just a few more years? Christopher Studach, creative director at King Retail Solutions (a firm that designs modern retail stores), has some ideas:

“Stores will become more theatrical, more immersive, and more of a life experience rather than simply a place to get something. As much as they are selling products they will be selling a good time, a lifestyle.”

Let’s hypothesize how that might translate in a few fictional shopping trips.

The fully-equipped showroom

Imagine a consumer electronics retailer that has fully embraced showrooming. You walk in to find very limited inventory: Two to three of each model, unwrapped, turned on, ready to play with. You scan the barcode near each with the store app to see product details, reviews, videos of the product in use, etc. Ashley Lutz, innovation writer for SAP blog, writes:

“Retailers might devote less space to mass product on the sales floor and more space to product immersion, as seen in Apple stores. Inventory could conceivably not even exist in the ‘store’ environment at all, but be shipped directly to your home from a distribution center.”

You find a fully stocked living room scene like you might see in IKEA today – a smart TV hanging in front of a couch, fully equipped wireless surround sound, 3D glasses for you to try on, a smartphone with which to control the setup. You ask a store associate an objective question like, “Can I control this TV with my voice using Xbox Kinect?” and he quickly looks up the answer on his tablet.

You have a more subjective question like, “Is this DVR simple enough for my 10 year old to operate?” so you again consult the store app to find consumer Q&A, seeking answers from people who already own the product. Not sold yet, you save the items in the app for later research, and keep browsing.

A laptop catches your eye, but the standard black isn’t your style. Using a touchscreen wall near the product, you customize the laptop – color, design, an engraving on the back, available memory. These digital walls will become common, writes SAP’s Ashley:

“Flexible environments are key to staying fresh, and relevant, meaning that displays should be as temporary as possible. One way of doing this is through digital signage, which updates constantly.”

The associate offers to help you order, including delivery choices: You can have the laptop shipped to the store for pick up, no charge. You can pay more to have it delivered to your home, and a little more for same-day delivery. Or you can pay an upcharge to buy one of the few models actually available in the store. He walks you through additional details – do you want to pay for certain software installations? Warranty? – before checking you out right there with NFC, just by touching your phone to his tablet.

The customized “oasis” and digital personal shopper

People today increasingly appreciate relevant, personalized experiences. They’re willing to turn over personal data when it’s clear how it will make their experience better. Bob Hetu, retail consultant for Gartner Incorporated, elaborates:

“Consumers right now don’t have a high trust level with retailers. However, our research also shows that when you start to simply give them the opportunity to get some better pricing and discounts, or better service, consumers tend to get over that privacy issue relatively quickly.”

Imagine an apparel store that consists entirely of individual dressing rooms. You enter one, and the talking touchscreen mirror greets you by name and asks if you’ve gotten compliments yet on those purple skinny jeans you bought last time – pulling your personal information and purchase history wirelessly from your smartphone app.

She plays music from your iTunes library and dims the lighting per your saved preferences, as some retailers are already experimenting with, explains M.J. Munsell, retail architect:

“A few stores – Burberry, C. Wonder in New York, Nordstrom – have experimented with dressing rooms that the customer can actually tailor themselves. You can go into a booth… where you can either plug in your iPad, your iPhone for your own music, you can adjust the light levels, and have your own personal oasis.”

Now that your dressing room is just as you like it, she asks you to do a slow turn, grabbing your current measurements with Kinect-like sensors. She then immediately pulls up some suggested items based on your past purchases and reviews, your skin tone and hair color, your body type, etc., displaying them right on the mirror for you to thumb through. As you click on a garment, it’s digitally superimposed on your reflection, along with its star rating and some review snippets from owners. And if you insist on actually trying a piece on, it’s robotically delivered to your room through a slot near the mirror – no associates necessary. This isn’t far off; a new designer jean retailer is already experimenting associate-less stores.

You add a few items to your cart, and the mirror gives recommendations for accessories to pair with each before you check out. Your payment and shipping information are already saved in the mobile app, so you’re on your way.

These are just two brief examples in an endless array of possibilities for tomorrow’s shopping trips. Future stores will be just as much about – if not more about – the shopping experience as the products they sell.

19 Responses to “Future retail stores will focus on experiences before products”

  1. Hi Kinga, thanks for the thoughtful comment. I absolutely expect shopping apps (and many others) for Kinect to take off once developers begin exploring use of the device for more than just games. So, anyone owning a Kinect in their home could essentially have the same dressing room experience described in the post, but on their TV.

    Thanks for reading!

  2. I would image, as technology becomes more affordable, taking this one step further: Since the dressing room is connected by Kinect-like sensors, one could presumably have a own dressing room with apps to stores of their choice. They could shop at Nordstrom/Macys/Saks, have a fitting, “try on” cloths, etc all from the comforts of their home. Being a social being, a concern would be that one of the largest aspects of going to a brick and mortar store will be lost: social interaction.

  3. Yes! And it’s easier for brick-and-mortar to bring the best of online into the store than it is for ecommerce sites to bring the best of the store online. But both are definitely possible. Thank you for reading!

  4. Totally agree. There’s definitely a place for brick-and-mortar in the future. It’ll weave in the best of digital. Thanks for reading!

  5. Anonymous

    Nice! Also, ‘experience’ will be the real differentiator for brick and mortar retail against eCommerce companies. Tw: @ganeshkulkarni

  6. Bob Amster

    We agree! Been espousing this direction for brick and mortar for a couple of years. Ever since some have been saying that the store will be dead soon. Not if retailers can make it fun or interesting!

  7. Thanks for your comment Jessica, glad you enjoyed the post! Definitely interested in chatting more. I’m txTDM on Twitter, let’s DM emails.

  8. Great piece, Tara! So many retail innovations to come in the next few years. Very exciting! Cellairis has just begun opening new store models that are very interactive – multimedia displays to help customers search product, on-site repair services and an app (in-store or mobile) to create a custom phone/tablet case using your photos from your social media pages, etc. Just the beginning! Would love to “talk shop” more about this sometime. :-)

  9. Hi Richard, thanks for reading. That’s exactly the sort of helpful experience that a store app (or talking mirror!) could provide! Thank you for sharing my post!

  10. Richard Goulette

    Good stuff, Tara. I was recently at a Nordstrom rack where they were showing you how to tie a good knot in a tie(both regular and bowtie) with some cool priced options and a raffle right after. I just reshared your blog on LinkedIn and noted that SurLaTable has always been good at this as well.

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