How are traditional retailers using technology and apps to stay relevant?

Online-only retailers are changing the face of commerce for consumers and retailers alike: benefitting from a lack of hefty costs associated with brick and mortar stores, all of their investment is focused on creating user friendly technology and enhanced shopping experiences. In the face of such strong competition, there is a clear need for development work and longer term strategy reviews from high street and omnichannel stores to remain relevant. For traditional retailers, creating innovative technology which can keep up with online rivals is the key to maintaining a competitive edge in the market.

For many, closing down stores to focus on their online presence and a movement away from the high street is the obvious answer; building functional and interactive websites and apps is a great place to start. The real success stories, however, are starting to come from those brands who remember to nurture their physical stores too, using technology to improve their high street experience.

This merging of digital and physical spaces into a ‘phygital’ sphere is absolutely the key to maintaining and growing a loyal following. Experiential retail in-store combined with smart in-app technology creates an efficient retail ecosystem and presents consumers with ample opportunity to become purchasers: the easier it is to complete a purchase - in real life or online - the higher conversion rates are.

Visual search

The technology which enables reverse image look-up is nothing new, but the ways in which the fashion industry are harnessing it are. Visual searches are rapidly becoming an expectation from shoppers, allowing an uploaded photo to suggest similar products to those pictured, be they a hastily snapped photo of a stranger’s shoes or a paparazzi shot of your favourite celebrity’s latest red carpet look. Increasingly common for eCommerce platforms like ASOS, high street staples must quickly adopt the technology to ensure they maintain an omnichannel presence which is relevant and functional.

Augmented reality (AR)

AR is becoming a huge part of eCommerce in-app experiences; think Snapchat filters, but rather than bunny ears or anime eyes they allow you to ‘try on’ real products. One of the most well known of these is the Specsavers ‘Frame Styler’ which scans your face and suggests glasses which will suit you, allowing you to try them on virtually and see yourself from all angles, stating, “you’ll be able to choose from a selection of glasses that are perfectly suited to you, so you can be confident in your choices.”

John Lewis have developed a similar in-app functionality, enabling shoppers to try on lipstick with a feature which “gives an accurate representation of how the lipstick looks on customers, as the virtual lipstick is applied instantly and stays on the lips, moving in real time.” With statement lipsticks in bold colours on trend for 2019, the ability to try a daring new shade in real time is more likely to encourage a purchase, filling users with confidence. John Lewis are not the first to launch this technology, but as a high street store they are demonstrating an understanding of the need to adopt leading tech to keep consumers happy and loyal.

In store functionality

Experiential shopping is multi-faceted, from events and promotions to cutting edge technologies. Stores which manage to deliver different and interesting features which engage their target audiences continue to see healthy footfall on a quiet high street.

Nike’s House of Innovation 000, their latest New York flagship store, is a great example of how to make in store shopping more engaging and simple than online. They offer everything from instant payments allowing you to checkout via mobile, avoiding queuing and crowds, and even the functionality to scan a mannequin, select your size, and have the clothes sent directly to a changing room to try on.

Immersion and engagement

Sometimes you just can’t beat consumer engagement. While Nike’s House of Innovation is designed to negate any need for human interaction, Oxford Street’s flagship Topshop has built a reputation for stand out events, including brand and collaboration launches and intricate theming. The summer of 2017 saw the installation of a pop-up VR waterslide, which ran the length of Oxford Street, accompanied by ice cream stalls and the piped in smell of suncream for an authentic holiday feel. Whilst not always directly linked to any product or collection in particular, their events always increase footfall and subsequently revenue as excited consumers splash their cash. Afterall, a large contributor to high street slumps is reduced visitors; half of the battle of getting people to spend in store is to get them there in the first place.