Think deeply about what exactly makes you choose to purchase a certain product. Is it the high quality, the brand reputation, the price point, or just the brightly colored packaging? Do you go to certain stores because the displays in the front windows draw you in? Or is it more likely because you received an email full of coupons?
Over the past decade, the entire idea surrounding marketing and user experience in retail storefronts has completely changed. This is largely thanks to developments in technology and the way in which people experience shopping in general.
In the earliest days of the retail industry, user experience was mostly about the physical experience brought on by the likes of storefronts, customer service, and the product itself. In the modern age, UX has been almost completely sequestered to the digital. But companies that want to remain at the forefront of their industry will need to recognize that UX will be defined by how well they deliver and merge both.
The Future is Here
Like it or not, the digital age is here and with it comes a substantial need to update and revamp nearly every aspect of the business just to keep up. A lot of that starts with making sure there is the staffing available to meet all of the company’s new needs. For example, there is currently a huge skills gap in digital technologies, which can greatly limit your company’s ability to make and maintain necessary changes.
Not only is it important to understand the employee needs of a digital market, but it is also critical to have a strong grasp on the message you are sending about your brand. Your company may have a strong physical brand identity, but does that translate to an equally powerful and alluring digital one?
Brand identity is a highly valuable aspect of marketing, and an easily recognizable one is key to success. A positive brand identity helps customers to recognize and remember you and will likely encourage them to pass along their experience and your message to friends. Developing an easy to use and clean digital platform is an essential update to any business.
Merging Physical and Digital
There are many out there who argue that brick-and-mortar stores are dead and that the future is moving to a completely digital realm. After all, e-commerce is estimated to be an over 4.9 trillion dollar industry by 2021. Regardless of whether or not traditional shopping centers are going away forever, there are certainly a number of things that can be learned from both physical and digital marketing.
For example, brick-and-mortar stores have almost perfected the use of in-store customer service. Think of all the clerks typically spaced around available to answer questions as well as a dedicated customer service desk near the front of every major department store. This idea is far more challenging to implement online where face-to-face interactions are non-existent. Rectifying this situation comes down to developing a clear website and perhaps an AI system that can quickly and efficiently answer questions.
One thing we know for sure is that user experience is a key component of high-profit margins. A large number of experts believe that user experience will continue to need to be perfected both inside the storefront and on the digital marketplace. The trick is merging them into a cohesive marketing plan rather than keeping them separate. After all, the user only sees one brand, why market as two different platforms?
There are a number of ways to actually make this happen in the grand scheme of things. One promising example is through the use of augmented reality within stores. Augmented reality (AR) essentially takes the physical world and adds a digital layer on top of it to help enhance the user experience.
Some stores have already put the idea of AR into action. For instance, AR can be used as a “virtual fitting room” that allows customers to get an idea of how an outfit will look on them prior to trying anything on for size. In one recent survey, nearly 61 percent of customers indicated that they preferred going to stores that had incorporated digital technologies such as AR.
Another AR tool may allow customers to see exactly how a certain product will look inside their home. The easy-to-download app allows customers to pick a product and then point a camera where they think they want to place it in their homes. The app creates a photo of the product in that location — all without the hassle of ever leaving your home!
The user experience is one of the pillars of quality marketing practices. For many customers, the idea of a separate marketing strategy for physical stores and a digital marketplace doesn’t make sense, meaning successful companies will need to find a cohesive strategy of merging the two. One example of doing this well is through incorporating AR technologies into the user experience.
The original version of this article was first published on Converge.