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The rise of e-commerce has prompted traditional retailers to rethink consumer engagement, leading them to turn to technology to help attract a digital-obsessed audience. But that doesn’t necessary mean opening online stores. Instead, brick and mortar retailers are transforming physical stores into futuristic experiential spaces to lure shoppers back in. Here are five ways they are doing so:
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1. Digitised shelves: Some stores, such as a Kroger supermarket in Ohio, currently use shelves that show digitised price tags and product information, but the smart shelves will soon target individual shoppers the same way online retailers do; by using shoppers’ behavioural data stored from previous store visits. For example, for vegan customers, shelves with vegan-friendly products will automatically light up when customers approach them. Some businesses, such as fragrance maker Jo Malone, use laser and motion sensors to identify when a product is being picked up, but not bought. It also offers shoppers recommendations through an interactive display.
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2. Interactive robots: In the UAE, both the Dubai government and private entities have been using robots to interact with customers, and this is expected to move into the retail sector too. Brands such as Lowe in California plan to introduce robots in as many as 10 stores this year. The robots will be able to scan products and guide customers to products. Japanese joint venture SoftBank Robotics is even working with 4-foot humanoid robot Pepper to help suggest outfits to shoppers at retailer outlets.
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3. Smart mirrors: There has been talk of interactive mirrors for a while, as high-end fashion retailers continue to test them in dressing rooms. The mirrors offer customers the chance to virtually try on outfits, with physically having to do so. However, it is not only traditional retailers who will benefit. Samsung has collaborated with online clothing portal Rent the Runway to set up digital displays in New York, which recommend items to customers passing by. It makes sure the products complement what they are already wearing. British luxury couturier Ascots & Chapels has also introduced 3D visualisation software to create customised garments, and allow clients to select their preferred fabrics and see the finished product before making an order.
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4. Wearables: Virtual and augmented reality wearables have been introduced in some furniture and home appliances stores, such as Home Depot, to allow customers to picture products in their real living spaces. All they have to do is upload pictures of their home interiors on their phones, after which they can browse products spanning from paint colours to bedroom décor. Samsung has also partnered with make-up brand NYX to sell makeup through wearables, where customers can experience products, and watch tutorials, via virtual reality.
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5. Self-checkout: Amazon’s experimental grocery store in Seattle allows shoppers to buy products without the need to check-out at cashiers. Instead, sensors track products that customers pick up, and are charged using shoppers’ Amazon accounts. Traditional retailers are expected to follow suit.