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The retail store of the future

NRF’s 101st Annual Convention & EXPO, in New York this week, is all about retail’s new rules: how retailers are breaking and reshaping the conventional rules of the game. From what I’ve seen so far at the conference, retailers are challenging themselves and leading the charge in innovation. A good example of that was a panel featuring Alison Paul, Deloitte, Bonnie Brooks, The Hudson’s Bay Company, and David Jaffe, Ascena Retail Group, discussing how retail executives are adapting their brick-and-mortar stores to bring technology in — and provide a better customer experience.

 From the panel, here are four things retailers should keep in mind as they weave the virtual world into the physical store:

  1. Refresh your strategy – retailers who can quickly address and react to shifts and trends in the marketplace will likely lead the industry. According to Paul, Deloitte’s research shows that nearly one in five retail execs believe that 15 percent of their sales will be generated from channels that have not even been thought of yet (Deloitte’s Store 3.0™ Survey: The Next Evolution, Sept. 2011). So it’s critical that retailers refresh their strategy so that their operating model can quickly respond to changes and trends in the marketplace among their customers.
  2. Improve the in-store customer experience – First, get to know your customers and how they interact with your brand today: collect offline and online data on their buying habits and preferences. Then use that information to invent a new customer experience that uses fun and innovative technologies. For example, said Paul, “Allow customers to check-in on their smartphone when they arrive at the store, virtually try on clothes without the traditional fitting rooms, or connect to their ‘virtual closet’ from the store to mix and match clothes.”
  3. Revive your talent management strategies – “As customers increasingly demand a more personalized experience,” said Paul, “your sales associates become even more critical in achieving that goal.” That means investing in your employees by providing the necessary skills, training, education, compensation, and career development options to increase product and technical knowledge is key. It also means equipping them with the right technology so they can easily provide customers with instant product information, purchase history, or preferences.
  4. Connect your customers virtually from the physical store – Use social networks, mobile devices and apps to connect customers from the physical space. The virtual connection to customers should be established while in the store and used to deliver a better experience by giving customers access to product information and reviews from the store floor. In addition to connecting to customers at the brand level, “Wi-Fi in the store can also enable your sales associates to engage customers and provide a higher level of service through personalized digital marketing campaigns, mobile checkout, and mobile inventory management,” said Paul.

 For more on where retail is headed, check out NRF President Matt Shay’s top five retail trends for 2012.

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