How retailers are making shoppers feel like stars

The customer experience has become as important as the merchandise—so every retailer is looking for ways to roll out the red carpet treatment. 

September 02, 2016

Today’s retailers understand that you can’t take customer loyalty for granted.

The customer experience has become as important as the merchandise—so every retailer is looking for ways to roll out the red carpet treatment. For some, technology helps create the glamour that delights shoppers and keeps them coming back.

“Retailers are banking on the idea that treating clients like stars will inspire their loyalty and spending,” says Andee Robb, Director of Retail Portfolio Optimization, JLL. “Today’s shoppers want to be a part of a memorable experience, whether that means sitting on the front row of a virtual fashion show or exploring options with interactive displays.”

The red carpet starts in the store—and it leads all the way to the shopper’s door. Pre-requisites also come in the form of premium delivery options, whether from warehouse to store or store to store, and straight to the consumer—within hours.

“Following through on the purchase is the other critical piece of a high-value shopping experience,” says Kris Bjorson, head of JLL’s Retail/E-commerce Distribution practice. “Behind the scenes, many retailers are fine-tuning their supply chain and distribution strategies to support the promise of high-speed delivery.”

In short, you don’t have to be a celebrity to get VIP treatment. Here are five ways you can walk the high-tech red carpet the next time you shop:

1. Mirror, mirror on the screen

Tired of imagining what that outfit would look like in different lighting? In a different color? Smart mirrors help customers find the perfect outfit, tracking their favorite styles and making intelligent suggestions to compliment the shopper’s wardrobe – not to mention offering a variety of lighting options to suit the customer’s preference.

That way, you’ll look good in everything and become more likely to buy. Partnering with Oak Labs, Ralph Lauren introduced interactive fitting rooms with smart mirror technology at its Polo NYC flagship store on Fifth Avenue in late 2015. Since employing Magic Mirror interactive fitting rooms by eBay, the shop has seen a 7 percent increase in sales of ready-to-wear clothing in six months.

2. Online and traditional shopping collide on interactive walls

New connected walls feature videos and other content, and also serve as the revolving door between the world of online shopping and the in-store experience. For example, Rebecca Minkoff and eBay joined forces to open a digitally connected store at 96 Greene St. in New York City, merging online and brick-and-mortar shopping. In the dressing rooms, shoppers can touch the surface of an interactive Magic Mirror to request fitting rooms, find an outfit in a different size or color or request any other assistance they may require.

3. First row seats to the hottest

Virtual reality headsets fashion shows are being used to give living room fashionistas a 3D front-row view of top designer fashion shows – seats your average consumer would have found difficult to come by. Retail is a new frontier for virtual reality and its cousin, augmented reality. In late 2015, Tommy Hilfiger became the first major retailer to put virtual reality in its stores when it offered shoppers a Samsung GearVR headset to take them virtually to the label’s fall fashion show in New York.

Another Fashion Week favorite: digital info cards. Burberry partnered with YouTube to create Fashion Week highlight videos coupled with digital info cards to enhance the viewing. Using the Info Card, a shopper could view further interviews or content about the show, and perhaps become inspired to shop the latest collection on their computer or mobile device. The retailer has also partnered with Google since 2013, using Google technology to create the Burberry Kiss campaign and, in 2015, creating the in-store Burberry Booth, which enables customers digitally insert themselves into a Burberry ad campaign and share it on their social networks.

4. Multi-channel goes next-level with an online store you can actually step into

Multi-channel stores may soon come in many shapes, sizes and dimensions. One of the world’s first such stores is the multi-channel Pro Direct store in Foubert Place in London, a space that provides a flexible digital environment that acts as a blank canvas for branded content from leading sportswear companies and provides an immersive experience for shoppers.

Working with retail design consultancy Green Room, Pro Direct brings the online shopping experience to life in a physical space, fulfilling the retailer’s goal to literally provide the feeling of being inside the website.

5. Go big or go home

Enormous video walls have always been common in districts like the Las Vegas strip, New York’s Times Square or on busy Tokyo streets. Now they’re helping retailers create a cultural, interactive experience that helps to wow shoppers and sets the tone for the in-store experience.

Last fall, Microsoft opened its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City—very near Apple’s glass cube, which was probably not a coincidence. Among other cutting-edge features, the store has a 40-foot high, 20-foot wide video display, dubbed the “culture wall,” that displays ‘artistic images’ illustrating Fifth Avenue. Also in the store, there’s another sizable portrait display that’s 30 feet tall, used to showcase Microsoft products.