(This post was originally written in January 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and relevance)
There's no denying that technology has changed retail. Brands must be willing to learn from, and adapt to, changing consumer needs. If not, they may follow in the steps of Pier1 Imports, Payless Shoesource, and Sears.
One of the most drastic changes has been how today's consumers use technology to research and purchase. Despite the rise of online shopping, Shopkick reported that 82% of consumers were more likely to purchase in a physical store after seeing, holding, or demoing a product. The store experience still plays a significant role in the purchase cycle.
Innovative retailers are integrating a number of offerings to enrich the shopping experience with everything from virtual try-on, omnichannel options to better research products while in the physical store, and AI-powered experiences. When you consider that 71% of shoppers spend $50 or more in store versus only 54% of shoppers who spend $50 or more online, improving the in-store experience is a no brainer.
So, who are the frontrunners that provide a great in store experience? Let's take a look:
1. Rebecca Minkoff
Luxury brands are implementing a top of the line shopping experience to maintain a personal and high-class feel in their stores.
U.S. brand, Rebecca Minkoff, stood out as an early leader by bringing the ease of online shopping into the physical store, and more specifically, into the changing rooms.
Each store has been outfitted with smart mirrors in changing rooms enabling each shopper to browse for other sizes or products that might complement whatever they're trying on. Meanwhile, smart walls suggest new styles when people pass by or enter. They also let customers order champagne while they browse.
This digitally-driven shopping experience is responsible for a large boost in sales with 30% of customers reportedly requesting additional items thanks to the smart mirror recommendations.
The Swedish retailer is testing new formats for their physical store, taking a left turn from the familiar warehouse feel. Starting in Shanghai, they are testing a store of the future format, creating spaces where a consumer can participate in a variety of activities that aren't shopping.
As an example, they are running a "Maker's Hub," where a store associate will work with customers to repair old items, or build new ones. They've created spaces where shoppers can relax and meet up with friends. And to add to the customer experience, shoppers can use their phones to scan items for more information, or for purchase and next day delivery.
This is just one way that IKEA is integrating technology into the landscape of the in-store experience.
3. Ulta Beauty
At a time when some retailers have seen foot traffic decline, Ulta Beauty is excelling. In the first quarter of 2021, Ulta saw U.S. sales surge 65.2% as compared to the same period in 2020.
Ulta prides itself on being a beauty superstore offering everything from low budget to premium items.
For a true customer experience, they also offer a full-service salon in every store with hair, skin, brow, and makeup services.
By offering a personalized in-store experience with input from beauty experts, Ulta has created a spa-like environment. Instead of being another grab-and-go store, Ulta's physical store has become a destination for every shopper with the guarantee of having an optimized retail experience.