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Brick-and-Mortar Technology Will Keep the Shopping Experience Alive

Tony Scherba
February 21, 2019

The demise of the shopping mall seems to be taking a bit longer than expected. In 2017, Credit Suisse predicted that 25 percent of shopping malls would close within five years.

For years, we’ve heard that malls simply wouldn’t be able to survive the shift in consumer preferences toward digital shopping experiences. Yet hundreds of millions of people chose to leave the comfort of their homes and head to the mall last year.

This leaves us with two crucial questions: Who are these against-the-odds shoppers, and what are they looking for?

Many are Millennials, but 82 percent of all adults believe malls will still be around in the next five to 10 years. That being said, many also say they’d like to see brick-and-mortar stores focus less on maintaining large inventories and more on offering interactive brand experiences. These features complement and enhance the digital shopping experience rather than compete with it.

Revamping In-Person Shopping

Fortunately for these consumers, most brands seem to be aware that despite the exponential rise of all things digital, a blended experience is the future.

Amazon is a testament to that. Although the company built its business online and played a role in the shift toward virtual shopping, it still recognizes the need to maintain a presence in the physical world. Not long after finalizing its acquisition of Whole Foods, the retail giant announced that it would open a brick-and-mortar location, Amazon 4-star, in the heart of New York City. The store carries toys, household goods, and other popular items. Prime shoppers receive lower online prices, and non-members pay list prices.

The store has since opened. But will Amazon play catch-up with retailers that already have physical infrastructure in place for interactive shopping?

3 Ways Brick-and-Mortar Technology Will Boost Shopping

Whether a brand is big or small, it should move quickly to stay relevant. In fact, we already have an idea of what the future looks like for brick-and-mortar technology.

Here are three tech-driven advances consumers can expect to see at the mall or in individual stores in the near future — or maybe even today:

1. Convenient digital dressing rooms

Many shoppers — especially older ones — appreciate the opportunity to try on clothes before making a purchase. But trying on several versions of the same item to see which colors or styles you like best can get pretty exhausting after a day of walking around the mall.

Luckily, the dressing room experience is shifting. Neiman Marcus fans are in for a ride. The company has already implemented smart mirrors that enhance the try-on experience. Users can record 360-degree views of each outfit and save videos to compare clothing choices.

That's not the only retailer upping the dressing room game, though: Adidas, Quiksilver, and others are using smart mirrors to keep customers engaged and happy, and upscale fashion brand Ralph Lauren uses similar technology as well.

If you're looking to upend your own brand's dressing room experience, why not follow suit by digitizing that part of the customer experience?

2. Experiences powered by augmented reality

Brands have only scratched the surface of what’s possible with AR, but that will likely change soon. A growing number of shoppers have indicated a desire to see AR-enhanced services in stores, and 40 percent would even pay more for a product experienced through AR.

One brand that’s paying attention is Sephora. The popular beauty chain has AR capabilities on its app, Virtual Artist, that allows customers to preview how products might appear on their faces before making a purchase.

Lacoste also has an AR-powered mobile app. In this case, customers can try on shoes virtually. The brand has also played with AR to enhance displays and in-store signs.

With industry giants stepping into the AR arena, expect even more brands to begin experimenting with it in the future.

3. Accessible user-friendly kiosks

Although shoppers clearly don’t mind taking some time for a trip to the mall, most don’t want to spend all day there. After all, convenience is key to a great shopping experience.

That's where touch-screen kiosks can help. Makeup lovers with questions about all things skincare can head to a Sephora Skincare IQ kiosk (the makeup brand isn't solely invested in AR), and malls themselves are also beginning to explore the use of tech-enabled kiosks to make shopping experiences a breeze.

And McDonald’s plans to implement kiosk ordering systems in all U.S. locations by 2020, which should help with overall efficiency.

These are just a few examples of how technology can keep the brick-and-mortar shopping experience alive. If you'd like to learn more about how digital dressing rooms, AR, and digital kiosk solutions could give your customers a better shopping experience, let's talk. We’re a San Francisco-based UX design agency, and we have experience working with innovative retailers such as Google, the Westfield Group, and others. We'll help you prototype your in-store innovation and can work with you every step of the way to bring your vision to life.

Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.

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