eCommerce & Merchandising

The Demise of the Physical Store

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We have all seen headlines: the statistics that show consumers are making more purchases than ever online, so much so that, eventually, we will no longer have physical stores. However, that headline is becoming yesterday’s news as the conversation is starting to change. Of course, there is no doubt that online shopping will continue to grow. But there is also proof that the physical store works hand in hand with the digital store.

A recent customer expectations study shows that 85% of the respondents consider the ability to return an online order to a store important enough to shop one retailer over another. Retailers are realizing the value of providing seamless omni-channel experiences to their customers and are scrambling to ensure they have the technical foundation in place to support it. But in this hurry to meet ever-expanding customer expectations, many brands are missing one critical component: the importance of the store associate in supporting the omni-channel shopping experience.

The store associate is vital in providing a positive experience for the customer; however, they do not always get the tools they need to perform this critical piece of their job. A 2015 Bureau of Labor Statistics metric shows for retail segments where omni-channel is relevant, the percentage of overall employees (i.e., not just those in stores) that are aged 16-24 averages 25% — with various apparel segments ranging from 40-51%. This young and often inexperienced employee is no long just being asked to stock shelves. They now must be able to find out of stock items in other locations, pick and pack items for shipment from store, and provide personalized and relevant offers to each customer that walks through the door. The good news is that there are mobile tools available that can help walk the store associate through each one of these tasks. These new tools make suggesting relevant offers and promotions a lot easier, which makes the customer’s shopping experience more pleasurable. Using the customer’s browsing and order history, along with what’s in their online cart, it then suggests offers that make the most sense for them. With this assistance, the Associate is no longer “flying blind” – they have all of their information at their fingertips, so they can make better suggestions a lot more quickly.

Ready to hear about how to put these kinds of technologies to work in your brick and mortar store? Stop by IBM Amplify in Las Vegas starting on March 20th to see multiple presentations and demos of how store engagement solutions can help improve your overall omni-channel offerings and increase in-store sales.

Because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, we won’t tell anyone if you escape another conference to come visit Amplify and learn how you take your customer experiences from merely amazing to “wow” with cognitive and Watson Customer Engagement! If you are attending the Adobe Summit or Shoptalk you are invited to register for Amplify 2017. To get your free pass just send a note to to get your promo code.

In the meantime, take a look at the Store Engagement offerings available at Amplify in this session guide.

We look forward to meeting you at MGM Grand in Las Vegas March 20-22. Register for the conference today and follow IBM Amplify with hashtag #IBMAmplify

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