Incorporating Technology in Your Brick-and-Mortar Location

From state-of-the-art POS systems to customer service robots, technology has the ability to engage and delight your customers, providing them with a frictionless experience so they can get on their way quicker.

device in hardware store

At its core, the function of a brick-and-mortar today doesn't look much different than it did fifty years ago: A customer arrives looking for a product or service, the business provides it to them, they pay and depart.

But unlike fifty years ago, technology is rapidly changing and improving the customer experience in innovative and engaging ways, both in back-end and customer-facing ways. Retailers need technology to make experiences better for their customers.

Today we see brands integrating augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, robots and more into their brick-and-mortar locations. But can these new technologies actually play a role in bringing more customers into the store and getting them to return?

The Role of Technology

Using technology isn't necessarily new for retailers, restaurants, banks, gyms and other businesses. Brick-and-mortar locations have been required to keep up with the times by building websites and apps, enabling e-commerce and upgrading inventory management systems in order to better run their business and better serve their customers.

But why simply just keep up with technology? Why not embrace new technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and interactive displays in order to stay steps ahead of the times — and your competitors? Technology can play a big role in creating unique, enjoyable in-store experiences for your customers that will draw them in and keep them coming back.

Imagine a customer stepping into your location. They check in on an interactive kiosk and receive personalized recommendations. Then, as they shop for products, they use their smartphone to scan labels and learn more — maybe see that product come to life on their screen. Digital displays around the store not only point the way but show demonstration videos the customer can interact with. Finally, once they have the right product in their hand, they simply cash themselves out at a self-checkout tablet.

Don't think that creating an appealing in-store experience should come secondary to other priorities, because I find it is great experiences that ultimately drive revenue. According to PwC, 65% of U.S. consumers say that having a positive experience with a brand is more influential to them than the brand's advertising and 73% of consumers take their experience with the brand into consideration when deciding to make a purchase. Great experiences can often let you charge more as well, as 86% of consumers would be willing to pay more for products if they receive a great experience, too.

Types of Technology

There are a number of different types of technology that brick-and-mortar retailers can utilize to provide entertainment, education, and service to their customers.

One technology increasing in popularity is digital signage and interactive displays. Many restaurants and cafes are moving their menus to digital, allowing for real-time updates with no need to wait for a reprint. Digital displays can also help with wayfinding, allowing customers to guide themselves in order to place orders and cash themselves out without having to wait in line. It can also help keep customers updated on store news, current promotions and even health and safety information.

Brick-and-mortar retailers can offer immersive experiences to their customers by adding AR features as well. Customers can use their phones to scan products to find out more information about them, or, as in the case of Rabble Wine and Jack Daniel's, they can watch a bottle's label come to life on their screen. You can use AR to create a game or a scavenger hunt around your store for customers as LEGO has with their Hidden Side in-store ghost hunt.

You can also offer VR experiences to your customers, which can transport them into virtual worlds to try out products or have an experience related to your brand. In 2015, The North Face tested out virtual reality headsets that gave customers the chance to hike, climb or base-jump, in hopes of prompting customers to go do the real thing — and buy the gear needed for it.

Using AI in your brick-and-mortar can also help streamline the experience and provide customers with personalized options, too. AI is one of the technologies that makes the Amazon Go store work, enabling customers to shop for products and simply walk out while sensors detect what they've purchased and charge it to their account. Some clothing and make-up stores are using "smart mirrors," which use AI to scan a person's features and make personalized recommendations.

Finally, we know that robots have long been used in warehouses to fulfill orders, so why not have them help customers? Customer service robots are popping up in retailers, like Pepper, that chats with customers, answers questions and can give them directions.

Technology for Your Brick-and-Mortar's Future

What can you do today to make your brick-and-mortar more technology-forward? Don't just implement technology for technology's sake, but identify areas where technology can enhance the in-store experience for your customers. Do customers spend more money when they see a demo? Add digital, interactive screens so they can view demos as they shop. Do you see a way for more self-checkout options to streamline the experience? Add them. Are you tired of updating and reprinting static menus and signs? Switch to digital and cut time and costs.

As you implement new technology in your location, have a strategy in place to track usage and interactions so that you can measure engagement and ROI, too. For example, analyzing the data gathered from your self-service kiosk can not only give you insights into who's using it and how, but you can then use those insights to enhance the customer experience by displaying customized offers and suggestions to target personas when they use that self-service kiosk.

Implementing new technology into your brick-and-mortar isn't just to keep up with trends or as something fun to do. From state-of-the-art POS systems to customer service robots, technology has the ability to engage and delight your customers, providing them with a frictionless experience so they can get on their way quicker.

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