Here’s how retailers can create powerful human connections for shoppers amid the fanfare of Amazon Prime Day

Amazon certainly gets a ton of mindshare these days as the end-all, be-all retail solution for shoppers. Granted, it dominates the utilitarian e-commerce game and it’s only getting better at it. Amazon Prime Day is the largest single shopping day globally with sales coming from 17 countries and sales hitting $4.19 billion. But what if I told you that Amazon only represents 5% of all retail sales, according to a recent article published by TechCrunch. Despite the perpetual false swirl of rumors clamoring about the demise of brick-and-mortar retail, physical stores today can complement Amazon’s offering rather than compete against it.

Case in point: Amazon’s second brick-and-mortar concept, Amazon 4-Star, debuted in 2018, featuring the most popular, highest rated and trending products based on each store’s geographic location. While it’s undoubtedly a great idea, perhaps there’s a lesson in solid execution to be had from those that have long-since played in the space – that group of experienced retail veterans that continue to re-think in-store engagement for the ultimate goal of creating a holistic customer experience.

Let’s call it a privileged position – this opportunity for retailers to double down on experiential advertising that boosts customers’ perceptions of their own unique shopping experiences, through methods that range from exceptional customer service and old-school atmospherics to interactive technology.

But with that, retailers and brands should also proceed with caution, for there is potential for offering too much of a good thing. Take tech-dominated store experiences, for example, that eliminate the need for human interaction and often fall flat for that very reason. In other words, retailers today must strike a fine balance to create the ideal blend of value-added mobile or tech experiences with personal connection and exceptional customer service, while leveraging the type of innovation that is revitalizing brick-and-mortar stores in the process.

Nike makes a bold ‘brick-and-mobile’ play

Finding that balance has led some major global brands more directly into the “brick-and-mobile” retail game, including Nike, which opened two tech-infused stores this year that enable shoppers to trigger in-store experiences with their smartphones. The flagship store in New York City, Nike House of Innovation 000, empowers guests to reserve shoe sizes via their phone and pick up selected styles in a designated locker they can then unlock with their phone. Next, selected items can be scanned and instantly paid for with a customer’s Nike Plus account.

Nike’s new approach blends customers’ desire to research additional information about products they are interested in with the satisfaction of being able to try on and take home purchases in minutes. This is especially strategic given that nearly three out of four (71 percent) of shoppers now access their phone while in stores to read product reviews, compare prices, check out, pay or look for gift inspiration ahead of the holidays, according to the latest Shopper-First Retailing Report. That number is up 15 percent from 2017.

Direct-to-consumer brands go from clicks to bricks

While in-store mobile shopping and research are increasingly popular among consumers, so are direct-to-consumer brands. A recent YouGov survey found 40 percent of U.S. consumers expect to spend more than 40 percent of their spending on direct-to-consumer brands over the next five years.

In fact, the No. 1 retail trend, according to eMarketer’s recent Future of Retail 2019 report, is that more DTC brands will go from clicks to bricks, meaning that digitally native brands are now landing and expanding their brick-and-mortar footprints at a furious pace, with 850 stores expected to open over the next five years, according to commercial real estate firm JLL.

As the report astutely points out, “Emotive experiences are difficult, if not impossible, to recreate through digital storefronts alone. But digital technology incorporated into physical store environments can produce engaging retail experiences.”

Creating an omnichannel strategy for the new retail reality

Again, the danger is for retail stores to become overly tech-ridden and then lose their human touch.

On the flip side, the opportunity is for retailers to carve out a slice of this new, digitalized shopping reality that blurs sales channels, turning the retail landscape into an ever-evolving, omnichannel commerce experience.

According to the Global Omnichannel Commerce Trends 2018 report, the U.S., U.K. and Australia are the global leaders of the omnichannel trend, although emerging markets led by China are catching up quickly and expect to see their share of digitally influenced retail sales expand by more than 10 percent through 2022.

Given the global convergence of online and brick-and-mortar retail, as well as the integration of innovative, in-store technologies that create truly engaging and interactive experiences, brands that rely on just a single channel to reach consumers, or that fail to develop a strategic, omnichannel media strategy will ultimately miss out.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

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