If you read our last blog on retail trends you'll know what we're getting at - digital experiences done well can give physical shops a unique pull, setting them apart from their neighbours and even the rest of their online presence.

We're still getting over the statistic in that last blog - 50% of people who bought a car from Audi City didn't take a test drive. Who buys a car from a showroom without taking a test drive? Half of Audi City buyers, that's who.

This is down to the digital tools in the showroom providing a detailed experience that you can't get online. The stats suggest the technology used at Audi City was involving enough to replace the traditional showroom experience and convince people to buy.

 

Who else is doing it right?

Starbucks

Following a trial run in Seattle, Starbucks has opened a Reserve bar in London. The new concept stores put the focus on exclusive small-batch coffees, and also offer digital services including digital ordering, click and collect, free Wi-Fi and wireless phone charging.

Starbucks' adoption of digital tech in its concept stores is a sure sign that innovation is on its way into mainstream retail.

Neiman Marcus

Going upmarket slightly (and across the Atlantic), let's have a look at US department store Neiman Marcus - specifically its mirrors and tables. As you might have guessed, these are not your average mirrors and tables.

After its smart mirrors allowed shoppers to try on virtual outfits in January 2015, interactive tables followed in February to enhance the browsing experience and act as a sales tool for staff.

This is a double bonus for the store - customers can browse at their leisure and see much more on the 4K, 32" touchscreens than their phones can show them, and sales assistants can pick things out to help them answer awkward shopper questions.

Pizza Hut

We all know eyes are the window to the soul, but are they also the window to the stomach? Pizza Hut tried to second guess what customers wanted to eat by tracking their eye movements while they looked at the menu. 

Pizza Hut reported a 98% success rate when it came to recommending pizzas that customers enjoyed. But is this app really about helping diners decide? Or is it about creating a sense of theatre (and press coverage) for the chain? It has certainly been effective at the latter, and many more people have heard about the subconscious menu than actually tried it. 

 

What are the opportunities?

In-store digital innovation is poised to fill a big gap in retail. On one hand are the brands with good websites but failing stores (such as Argos), and on the other are those with strong pull on the high street but low online profiles (like Primark). Brands that use digital tech to explore the limits of retail will be able to make their high street stores into destinations that we will go out of our way for. 

Keep an eye out for our next retail blog which will focus on showrooms - we'll let you know on Facebook and Twitter when it's out.

 

Sources: Econsultancy, Neiman Marcus, Retail Innovation

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