The humanity of technology is forging the retail Customer Experience and boosting customer and retail integration

Retailers have been through a tumultuous time and have both struggled and boomed, depending on the retail sector and what side of the digital divide they were on. Customers have, however, returned to brick-and-mortar stores and more retailers are using retail technology to create human connections and interactions, with integrated retail being a key trend for 2022.

“Understanding the relationship between humanity and technology is key to retailers who embrace and responsibly develop retail technologies, which take customers on a journey that enhances their experience and speaks to them directly. Technology should not be used as a crutch, but rather to empower the creation of an experiential retail encounter,” says Chris Day, Managing Director of Moving Tactics, South Africa’s leading digital signage solutions company.

Technology is currently being employed to integrate and cross merchandise throughout the retail and product spectrum, from cosmetics and clothing to pharmacy, coffee, mobile and liquor, creating a cohesive and consistent shopper experience. Technologies such as touchscreen kiosks, promotional screens, gondola ends, department-specific screened content, non-touch tech, heat mapping via CCTV (digital), and shelf-edge labelling all integrate to track the movement of people in-store, relay data on stock availability and engage with customers about price promotions, product information and time-specific information; whilst at the same time integrating with internal systems to oversee stock management and merchandising requirements and, in so doing, create the ‘endless aisle all via digital signage technology.

Considered one the fastest growing retail sectors, Athleisure, the athletic leisure market, has exploded as a result of COVID as consumers continue to spend time at home working and exercising. Athleisure brands have flourished as sneakers, loungewear, leggings and sweatpants have become essential pieces of the new professional wardrobe.

Athleisure brands are prime digital initiators of the retail integration process with products that are sought after by a younger audience, millennials, that want to relate to the brand’s narrative. Customers want to know the story behind the product, its provenance its sustainability, origin and impact on the environment, the technology used and what makes it stand out. This is especially relevant to athleisure footwear and high-end sneakers. In-store digital signage, non-touch technologies and interactive experiences provide consumers with the content required whilst solidifying the personal relatability to the brand.

“Through RFID tagging and motion sensors, in-store consumers can access product-specific information and then, via QR code, take the information home on their phones. The technical specifications of these products can be very detailed and not all in-store salespeople have the knowledge at hand, so using in-store screens for this purpose works well,” explains Day.

Brands communicating a more meaningful message through their in-store brand identity are considered genuine, transparent and authentic. So, as more competitors enter the athleisure market, providing unique experiences and expressing the brand’s values is key to attracting and deepening the relationship with its audience.

Over 50% of consumers say that the overall enjoyment of their detail experience is important in their decision to buy a product or service, and among the reasons people are loyal to a brand, 27% claim it’s about the quality of the shopping experience.

Day adds, “In-store immersive experiences such as ‘test and play’ areas, shoe customisation, foot sizing, can all provide data about the consumer to offer a more personalised customer-centric service, that includes specific product information and tailored experiences in-store for returning customers”. Adding immersive activities in-store reinforces the brand’s visibility online, keeping the community busy with likes, comments and shares around its identity, while also attracting new audiences.

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