Now that we live in a world where nobody (seriously, nobody) goes anywhere without a smart phone on their person, it shouldn’t be a surprise that consumers expect technology solutions everywhere they go.
Retail store owners may perceive a difference between bricks-and-mortar retail and online experiences, but consumers do not. In the consumer mind, all shopping is a continuum, from social media to blogs to websites and shopping experiences to the physical store.
We often focus on the importance of using technology to drive foot traffic, but today we’re examining the importance of using technology inside your store once the foot traffic has landed. There are several things you can do to make your in-store experience feel modern and digitally interactive without losing the connectedness of person-to-person selling.
The trick - and this is important! - is to have the technology available for those who prefer it, but never force it on shoppers who don’t want to deal with it. That way, your techies and your non-techies will all feel like you have tailored your store experience for them.
If you schedule appointments with customers, why not supply them with a booking link? This is a link that can be shared on your business cards, as a button on your website, or through any email or SMS message that allows a customer to book an appointment with your staff. The link opens your appointments calendar, and the customer can see which appointment times are available. Without the hassle of back-and-forth “I’m available at this time and that time, does that work for you?” emails, and much faster than making a phone call, your customer can book an appointment. Don’t worry - this works for shared calendars too!
When the customer arrives at your store, you can make it possible to check themselves in for their appointment - again, if that’s how they like doing things. But a warm personal greeting will quickly let your guest know that they can skip the self checkin if that’s what they prefer.
While some customers love the experience of having a long conversation with a salesperson, others would prefer to keep their own counsel (or just have a few quiet moments to themselves) while browsing. If the quiet browser walks into your store, you can still offer a wealth of product information using QR codes.
A QR code can be placed anywhere, and they don’t have to be blocky and black either! You can create custom QR codes with your logo in the middle or QR codes in your brand colors (or both). If you use in-case signage, just place QR codes next to specific designers, gemstones, collections, or suites. Scanning the QR code can bring guests to a web page that tells the stories of that product and illustrates those stories with lots of great images. Make sure that the page offers the option to buy now and walk up to the counter to pick up the purchase or ship to their home!
You can use technology to extend your inventory far beyond your walls with the VDB app and marketplace. Just have your phone or tablet close at hand, and if you aren’t able to find a diamond, lab-grown diamond, or gemstone within your own inventory that suits your customer, you can pull out the app and search for the right stones there.
With markup mode on the VDB app turned on, customers can see the retail prices, and you can hand over the device for them to scroll, search, filter, and save favorites. It’s a great way to show your customer all the possibilities, keep the conversation going, and keep the customer in the store.
For retailers who are still slightly ambivalent about lab-grown diamonds - whether it’s because you don’t want to dilute your message or because you don’t want to commit to more inventory - you don’t have to lose the sale when a lab-grown consumer walks in wanting nothing else. Instead, pull up the VDB app and search over 200,000 lab-grown diamonds in the VDB marketplace! VDB’s collection-building and sharing features make it easy for your customer to include her family and friends too.
If you’re looking for a fun way to offer lower-priced items with a bit of interactive novelty, consider putting in a smart vending machine. These cabinets can be remarkably attractive, featuring large touch screens your customers can use to explore the products inside in great detail. You could even include items you wouldn’t normally sell, like fragrances, tech wearables, and other accessories.
If you’ve walked through an airport any time in the past five years, you’ve seen people lined up at vending machines for every imaginable luxury from scarves to high-end watches. Some customers love the convenience, and for others, it’s more about the novelty. If nothing else, it’s a great conversation piece.
While jewelry presents some challenges to the automated checkout process due to the high value of the pieces, other stores with high street value items - like Nike in NYC - have figured out how to make it work. The consumer finds the shoes she wants, checks it out on her mobile device and pays for it, and a counter staff member retrieves the item and puts it in a bag. No need to stand in line or engage in a conversation if the customer is not so inclined.
You may be wondering why we’ve saved this for last, when AR and VR get so much press. The reality is that if someone is already in your store, there’s a good chance they want to try the jewelry on and not watch it on their screen. So AR implementations for jewelry stores have not been highly successful, though they do make for fun conversations.
As we said at the beginning of this article, tech in your store isn’t for everyone. But it doesn’t have to be to everyone’s liking! It just needs to be subtle, useful, and easy to access, and the people who prefer to mix a little (or a lot) of tech with their IRL shopping will appreciate your effort.