Today’s shoppers expect the ability to research products online, and then quickly and easily obtain them via their channel of choice. For some that might mean online purchase/at-home delivery, and for others it might mean ordering them online, then paying/picking up at a nearby store. Thus, while digital sales have skyrocketed since the pandemic—and show no signs of slowing down—brick-and-mortar stores remain vital to business success.
As a result, savvy retailers are focused on delivering a seamless ‘omnichannel’ shopping experience, which includes brick-and-mortar stores, app-based options, and online platforms. They are betting on the ability of omnichannel to give them a leg up over the competition, and there is research to suggest it can do just that. Harvard Business Review collaborated with a major U.S. company to study the shopping behavior of just over 46,000 customers. Their findings showed that omnichannel customers loved using the retailer’s physical and digital touchpoints, in all sorts of combinations and places. Moreover, the retailer’s omnichannel customers spent an average of 4% more on every shopping occasion in the store, and 10% more online than single-channel customers did.
In the last several years, the pace of innovation in retail has increased to a head-spinning speed. Online, technologies such as chat bots, augmented reality (AR) and geo targeting—the practice of targeting visitors online with localized or location-appropriate content based on a visitor's geographic location—have disrupted how retail works. In the brick-and-mortar world, retail real estate developers and managers are working closely with tenants to expand their use of existing technologies—and implement new technologies—in the pursuit of delivering a best-in-class omnichannel experience.
Following are four examples of technology at work:
- Flexible In-Store Fulfillment
In addition to providing a physical location to purchase and return goods, stores are fast-becoming fulfillment centers in their own right. Consumers who buy products online can travel to their local store to get them, and retailers can leverage local inventory supplies to fulfill these orders in near real-time. To make the process seamless and satisfying, leading retailers are offering curbside pickup and self-service checkout made possible by technology innovations that incorporate cameras and sensors.
2. Expanded Use of Digital Signage and AV Systems
Digital signage is an effective way to promote products to shoppers, and sophisticated AV systems can create immersive in-store experiences for consumers that span sight and sound. Both come with unique infrastructure requirements, especially if the goal is to allow different monitors to display different content. Low-profile and clean looking digital signage devices, such as those provided by Panduit and Atlona, enable a clutter-free installation that hides behind video panels.
Some larger retailers are also using digital signage, and even virtual reality headsets, to improve communication among store employees, as well as to quickly onboard and train associates without disrupting store operations.
- Modern Point-of-Sale (POS) Systems
Retailers are also investing heavily in modern point-of-sale (POS) and interactive kiosks that link to inventory systems. These solutions can enable behind-the-scenes price adjustments and automatic replenishment from suppliers or a corporate warehouse.
And by using them to track consumer identities and purchase habits, retailers can capture and mine data for the insights required to provide personalized shopping experiences and enhance loyalty programs. However, the programs powering these solutions rely on faster-running processors with higher than-average needs around power and cooling. Thus, CRE firms and their retail tenants need to consider on-site networking requirements, as well as the physical infrastructure requirements for on-premises, colocation or edge data centers.
- Mobile Device Proliferation
Smart phones and similar handheld devices enable store associates to communicate, support in-store fulfillment options, access product and customer information, and process payments. To achieve this, the networking infrastructure must consist of strategically placed Wi-Fi range extenders and distributed antenna systems, the latter of which can extend both Wi-Fi and cellular ranges.
Partnering with Panduit gives CRE leaders and tenants access to the broadest portfolio of innovative network infrastructure and AV solutions on the market. These solutions help provide reliable, consistent network performance and increase speed to market. You can learn more about supporting tenant networking needs with innovative network infrastructure and AV solutions by visiting our commercial real estate solutions website.