We talk about “digital retail” and “brick-and-mortar” shopping like they’re these two completely distinct entities. But, intuitively, we all know that our in-person and digital shopping experiences overlap all the time. Whether you’re trying on some shoes in the store before snagging that discount online, or quizzing your smartphone assistant about local product availability, our customer journeys often zigzag between the world and the web, and retailers are trying harder than ever to meet you at that intersection.
Shoptalk 2017, which took place this past weekend, demonstrated why retail events are focusing more and more attention on omnichannel experiences. Simply put, online retailers want some of that brick-and-mortar money (and vice-versa), and everyone’s interested in the data and dollars that slips away when consumers switch channels. A few highlights from this year’s event tell these stories more clearly than ever:
Amazon looms large in this summary of the event’s key players and themes. Both online and b&m stores are looking to innovate in ways that help them thrive in the shadow of the retail giant. What do you do when one of your most effective retail channels is also a potential competitor? One response is to develop alternative experience to engage customers, which is why we’re seeing a lot of emphasis on chatbots and augmented reality.
New wave in digital retail
Speaking of newer technologies, Walmart used Shoptalk as an opportunity to announce an e-commerce incubator, titled “Store No. 8”, to develop AI and related projects. Additionally, the company will continue its spree of aggressive acquisitions designed to grow its presence within underdeveloped verticals. In speaking on this, CEO Marc Lore was careful to highlight ways that a better Walmart is one that connects your online and offline experiences.
One consistent refrain from the event was the idea that companies can breathe new life into brick-and-mortar stores by using them as distribution centers. eBay’s CEO Devin Wenig spoke on this subject, explicitly pointing out the important of B&M to the average consumer. Target’s CEO Brian Cornell discussed turning its locations into “fulfillment centers”, and revealed plans for revamped stores that incorporate both B&M and digital experiences.
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Other stories worth your time: Google Home is helping consumers search for local products, Instagram unveiled an expanded shopping feature, and companies are looking to improve personalization with payment data.