There are buyers and there are shoppers. The buyers walk into the store, grab what they want, and leave as quickly as possible. If time is no issue, perhaps they will make their purchase on Amazon. Shoppers though, want more than to just buy something—they seek the experience of shopping itself. The brick-and-mortar stores that want to survive are going to do what they can to improve those experiences and there is currently an industry-wide search to find out how that can be best accomplished.
There are a number of new technologies designed to improve shoppers’ experiences, such as apps that personalize content. Several stores, mainly grocers, now allow customers to skip the checkout line entirely and simply walk out the door with their purchases through interactive kiosks. Many retailers are looking at augmented reality or allowing people to customize and even build their own products. Artificial Intelligence is also expected to make personalization easier and more effective but it’s role is still undefined in the retail space.
Smart shelves and other elements of the internet of things (IoT) will make much of this possible. Voice assistance and facial recognition will also streamline the shopping experience. Shoppers may want a different experience from buyers, but they want to have all the conveniences connected with online shopping that the buyers enjoy. So, it should not be a surprise to see greater use of technology, from IoT to apps, and kiosks to creative experiences.
Brick-and-mortar retailers will keep shoppers coming through the doors so long as they provide shoppers with good experiences—and the right experiences for the type and size of that particular store. However, those experiences are going to have to be grander—and better—than simply being a place where people can buy what they want. After all, Amazon and Wal-Mart can provide that from the comfort of someone’s couch.
Shopping is a social experience, and it is up to retailers to find the best way to keep the experience fun and engaging. Technology will be critical in accomplishing that.