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The Hybrid shopping experience

On behalf of : Ugandharji HM

Retailing has been evolving over the years. What started as independent 'mom and pop stores' transformed into the first true self-service grocery stores in the form of Piggly Wiggly, where customer selected merchandise as they walked through the maze to the cashier. This further changed with the advent of the 'Big Box' retailers such as Walmart and Carrefour, which completely changed the landscape of retailing- the customer now had the option of shopping all under one roof. The rise of the digital era, completely redefined customer shopping experience with Digital retailing such as amazon and ebay, and shopping now could be done anytime, anywhere as long as one was connected to the internet.

Add to this, the dimension of new age smartphone mobile devices and what you have is shopping right at your fingertips. So does this mean the end of the conventional from of retailing? That would be stretching too far, at least not so in the immediate future. However, what it definitely means is, that there are now more avenues for a consumers to shop and it is imperative for retailers to be present at these touch points to influence consumer behavior and provide a seamless shopping experience across channels.

The apparel retail industry has been one of the early adopters of technology to drive customer experience. By embracing technology and continuously innovating, it has been able to able to understand and influence buying behavior.
One such recent adoption for customer engagement has been the Mobile which has enabled convergence with anyone and any channel. Mobiles can help apparel retailers in
1. Creating Awareness
2. Enhance in store shopping experience
3. Build loyalty post purchase

Create Awareness- Use mobiles to create brand awareness and enhance customer engagement
1. Use B2C mobile apps to Create Contextual Campaigns, advertisements and SMS to drive customer traffic to stores.
2. Initiate location based services to facilitate nearest store location, drive location based promos
3. Share shopping experiences with friends through social sites

Enhance in store shopping experience- Use tablet devices to enhance in-aisle shopping experience in the store
1. Use Mobiles to scan QR code/ barcode on garments to direct users to more information on the product, customer recommendations, ratings and reviews that build confidence about the choice of garment
2. Leverage augmented reality to facilitate trial of garments on mobiles e.g. Use of the mobile camera for quick virtual trial of various clothing on consumer's body without having to physically try each one out
3. Receive real time contextual based special offers and promotions based on customer profile and purchase history, and cross-sells related products or new fashion lines. e.g. Based on user profile, in store targeted promotions or coupons can be pushed in real time while shopping in store
4. Provide in store inventory look up or guided sales for difficult to get color or garment designs through endless aisles
5. Extend Loyalty redemption and services e.g. Passbook is used for storing and using digital loyalty cards as needed
6. Extend Point of sale on mobile for faster checkout and queue busting e.g. Using Mobile Wallets, NFC, and barcode readers to make mobile payments.

Build loyalty post purchase- Leverage mobile to stay connected with the consumer and retain loyalty long after the purchase is made
1. Provide garment cleaning/ maintenance tips
2. Provide outfit matching for color blind individuals,
3. Outfit creation support
4. Share celebrity/ friends' purchases, loyalty marketing, etc.
5. Provide information on new arrivals, size/ color alerts when in store

With a blurring line between online and offline retailing, apparel retailers need to embrace the opportunity provided by the paradigm shift in retailing happening around, and create the best differentiators to provide better customer experience.

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