The future of retail: bridging the gap between online, in-store experience


For the past few years, online retailers have dominated the market, offering their customers a comfortable and customized shopping experience that brick and mortar outfits have not been able to replicate. Experts predicted that brick and mortar stores were on their way to being nothing short of a relic. However, a shift is underway as consumers desire a more integrated shopping experience that in turn offers retailers and designers limitless opportunity for innovative solutions.

Retail Trend: Beacon Technology
A major advantage of online retailers is their ability to collect and leverage unrivaled data about their consumer. Brick and mortars are beginning to close the gap by utilizing something called beacon technology. Shopping beacons cost about $5 per unit and use Bluetooth capabilities to wake up (without actually opening) an installed mobile app on a phone or tablet. Shoppers are not only sent a customized welcome message when in close proximity to a beacon, but are given suggestions, promotions, coupons, and customer loyalty points just for visiting the store.

Simon Properties has already installed 4,800 beacons across 192 malls and shopping centers nationwide. If you have a Simon app on your phone and have walked into a mall recently, you are probably aware of the emerging trend. This technology offers brick and mortar stores a chance to catch back up, and marries consumers’ desire to shop both online and in-store.


Target knows a thing or two about guiding customers through its retail stores.

Designing For Retail
In the future, designing layouts will likely be further informed by data collected on shoppers’ habits, such as where they spend most of their time while in a store. This would not only aid in smarter design layouts, but could provide customers with best routes to scoop up their items, inform users of aisle congestion, and direct traffic to promotional goods and demonstrations. A trip to the grocery store would mean uploading your grocery list, receiving customized promotional alerts, and providing you with the best route to execute your list right on a phone or tablet. If you forget anything on your list, a beacon message would remind you of what you missed or save it for your next trip. Target notably launched an app in late 2014 that helps customers shop in their stores; they are but one of many large retailers deploying innovative Point Inside software today.

Increase Sales
Beacons can also collect data that helps paint a detailed picture of customers’ shopping history. Say it has been four weeks since you’ve purchased moisturizer — a beacon message would suggest replenishing your supply when you walk past a store carrying your brand, and might offer a coupon or another form of buying incentive. According to research about shoppers conducted by marketing technology firm Swirl:

  • 60% of shoppers open and engage with beacon-triggered content
  • 30% redeem beacon-triggered offers at the point of purchase
  • 75% percent said beacon-triggered content increased their likelihood to purchase
  • 61% said they would do more holiday shopping at stores that delivered mobile content while they shopped
  • 61% percent said they would visit a store with beacon marketing more often

From Sales Associate to Personal Shopper
With application technology, you can call for assistance with your phone or tablet. An associate would not only be able to locate exactly where you are, they might have your shopper profile on hand, from which they could pull up your history, sizing, and wish list before they even meet you. An associate could quickly transform from salesperson to personal shopper and stylist by preparing a dressing room according to your needs and personal taste. You could potentially have a customized fitting room waiting for you before you even enter the store.

Virtual Dressing Rooms
Say you see something you like online or in a store, but don’t have the time or desire to try it on. Retailers can now utilize a body scanner or virtual mirror with which they can create an avatar according to your body type — one that would remain in your shopping profile, ready for future access. You could then try on clothes, virtually, in your dressing room or at home via phone, tablet, or computer before deciding to try them on in person. If you see something you like, you could then have an associate pull looks for you or ship the goods straight to your home.

Retailers and designers are already utilizing much of this technology. Leading the way in the dressing room revolution is Karl Lagerfeld, notable German fashion designer, photographer, artist, and creative director for Chanel and Fendi. There was once a time where brick and mortar retailers were scratching their heads, preparing for the doom delivered by online shopping alternatives. Now there is limitless opportunity to connect with customers, offer customized experiences, provide excellent service, and even control overhead costs through collecting consumer data. And the good news for consumers is they get to keep what they like about their online and in-store shopping experiences.

“Technology is and will continue to revolutionize the retail industry and customers’ direct experience with the products they seek to procure. We are keenly interested in the impact technology has on shaping the customer’s experience in the virtual shopping realm. Architecture evokes a reaction to space, material, and light — in much the same way the experience of the technology interface influences shoppers’ decisions to buy or not to buy.

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