Online business is still ahead of stationary trade. Even before the pandemic disrupted in-store browsing, the trend was towards online shopping. For many companies, however, brick-and-mortar retail is still an important business - especially for building relationships between customers and brands. So companies are now under pressure to bring more people back into the physical store after the pandemic ends soon.
In the future, customers will expect the same level of product information, convenience and entertainment in bricks-and-mortar stores as they get online. In order to bring customers back to the stores in the long term, new incentives are needed. Especially for the younger generations, the shopping experience is in the foreground. Shopping is no longer a means to an end, but rather a leisure activity and destination.
Neither the purely online nor the purely stationary shop offers the optimal shopping experience. The mixture of analogue and digital, on the other hand, achieves this balancing act as a hybrid store.
Hybrid stores are not primarily sales areas, but product rooms in which selected goods are available for testing and viewing in less space. A digital catalogue, for example integrated by touch screens, complements the existing range. Companies thus save on display space and at the same time offer visitors more free space to explore the range.
Digital shopping baskets literally take the burden off the customer's shoulders. Portable scanners or shopping cards, as the new "shopping trolleys", ensure that the hands remain free for browsing. At the counter, which is no longer a cash register, customers receive a receipt in exchange for the respective shopping device, which they can use to receive their goods in a separate area or conveniently order them by mail. This is a particularly convenient concept in the FMCG sector.
Modern technologies not only support the purchase itself through digital means, but also the entire shopping process. In this way, hybrid stores specifically address customers' pain points and reach them via several channels and emotional levels.
Coupled with a company's app, for example, the customer's smartphone acts as a kind of remote control for the store, providing personalised content. Through location activation, the app recognises when customers are near a store or even in the store itself.
Digital shop windows and screens in the store automatically display the content that the customer has already accessed in the app.
But how do customers find their ideal product in the hybrid store if not all products are physically available? That's what virtual try-ons or try-outs are for. Screens become virtual mirrors and product configurators that display every product from the range together with all the important information and, in the case of clothing or cosmetic products, even project them onto the customer's head via AR.
But of course it's also about the product experience. The store is now more of a showroom, geared towards and designed for the digital generation. The London furniture label "Made", for example, has integrated a concept into its Amsterdam store whereby visitors can test bestsellers in the store and shop via an app on their smartphone or via an integrated touch screen without having to rely on the help of a staff member.
In general, however, it will also be more about information in the future. Consumers want to know what ingredients their products are made of or where the materials of a product come from. Digital elements support and present this information in an appealing way.
Product tables and NFC tags, for example, allow consumers to place products on a connected screen, where all associated product data then appears automatically. Scanning functions in the smartphone app make it possible to scan images of product packaging or from shop windows to access individual, interactive content - in the example of the beauty industry, this could be make-up tutorials or AR filters with try-ons.
The hybrid store is by no means intended to take over from online shopping. Rather, the physical shop should serve as an entrance to the website and create a transition that closes the gap between online and offline, while at the same time allowing stationary retail to be the first stop in the customer journey.
The hybrid store brings advantages not only for customers, but also for businesses. The digital features in the shop invite people to linger, but also to share on social networks, which helps to increase reach and reputation.
Instead of a cramped display, the product highlights are given more space in the store. For customers, this means more convenience when shopping, and for brands it means considerable cost efficiency in terms of inventory and rent. A particularly valuable plus point, however, is the meaningful user and purchase data generated via digital touchpoints in the store.
If you would like to learn more about the integration of digital solutions in brick-and-mortar retail, simply contact us. We will be happy to advise you on individual solutions for your hybrid store.