5 Important Things We Learned at Future Stores

High-level decision makers and executives shuffled in and out of the ballroom at Future Stores to unlock their imagination in the retail space. The 3-day conference held last week in Seattle focused on reimagining your brick and mortar store to enhance the customer’s shopping experience. Here are the top 5 things we learned:

1. Embrace showrooming and webrooming
There’s always the debate over whether showrooming is a threat to retailers. With new technologies emerging, retailers should embrace showrooming and webrooming. Shoppers have always searched items online before coming in-store, so it’s nothing new. To embrace such customer behaviors, you must first understand your customer’s needs and wants. Understand what your customer is looking for and deliver a consistent experience to keep them engaged and build brand loyalty. Don’t think of showrooming as a threat, think of it as an opportunity to deliver the right, unique shopping experience.

2. Store associates need better education and training
While associate devices are no longer a nice to have, store associates are having a difficult time utilizing these devices to interact with shoppers.

Melanie Zimmerman, VP of Strategy and Innovation at Macy’s, says their challenge is getting store associates to use these devices and use it the right way. Macy’s store associates use them to be efficient in running the store rather than focusing on their customer’s experience. The important thing to remember is the training and education you provide to your store associates. Train your associates to help them understand how the device works, why it’s important, and the impact it can have. The purpose of these devices is to make associates feel empowered and improve connection and conversations with shoppers.

3. The “creepiness” factor
Another “must-have” experience is personalization – delivering targeted content and promotions to customers online and offline. However, with personalization, you can unintentionally make your customers feel uncomfortable. During a panel discussion, “Technology and Human Interaction In-Store: How You Can Strike the Right Balance,” the panelists advised to stay away from facial recognition because it will scare your customer away. Even though customers don’t like the idea of using their data, they will allow it if you deliver better targeted content in exchange. Greeting customers in-store when they’ve never even met the store associate will also drive the shopper away. Instead, your store associates should strike up a casual conversation to get to know the customer rather than popping up information that could be disturbing. For example, if a store associate mentions to a shopper, “hey John, I know you were looking at a pair of jeans last night on our website, would you like to try them on?,” will scare the shopper away and lose brand loyalty.

4. Create an emotional connection with your customers
The importance of shopper experience remains consistent in the ever-changing world of retail. Jonathan Storey, VP of Disney Stores, North America understands the importance of how shoppers are treated in store and using technology to enhance the store experience without losing the human touch. You must create an emotional connection to get your customers passionate about your brand and keep them coming back.

“Technology alone will not create an engaging environment. Associates make the technology come to life,” said Storey.

DIsneyKey_FutureStores5. Imagination is key
In the retail space, we’re constantly focused on metrics and revenue, which is a good thing. However, when it comes to the shopper experience, we need to allow ourselves to think outside the box, to think about what the customer won’t expect while shopping in-store. During his keynote, Storey handed everyone a Disney key to unlock their imagination. At Disney, they engage with shoppers through storytelling both online and offline. While you’re planning for 2016, remember to use your imagination and to always strategize with a consumer-first approach.

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