More E-Commerce Experiences Are in Store
New technology enables retailers to bridge the physical and digital divide for the holiday shopping season
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As e-commerce continues to challenge the traditional shopping experience, retailers are breathing new life into their brick-and-mortar locations through a combination of digital technologies. Among the most popular is the in-store kiosk, which allows shoppers to order items from the company’s e-commerce site while in the physical location. “In-store kiosks increase the chances that a customer will complete the transaction, even if they don’t find what they’re looking for at the brick-and-mortar store,” Steven Skinner, senior vice president of Cognizant Retail Consulting, says.

But more advanced technology is becoming increasingly mainstream as well—iBeacons, for example, are already in use at several major department stores and shops throughout the country. Retail giant Macy’s recently tested iBeacon technology at a San Francisco location and sent push notifications to customers’ mobile devices with discounts and special offers based on the customers’ preferences and past shopping experiences. “IBeacon is low-cost and a powerful personalization tool,” Skinner says. “I expect we’re going to start seeing more uptake in the marketplace.”

Even augmented reality (AR) is making its way into retail. “The possibilities for AR are vast,” says Isaac Krakovsky, a partner in consulting firm Kurt Salmon’s retail and consumer products group.

While some retailers use augmented reality technology to allow shoppers to unlock additional content or coupons by scanning item QR codes, others are taking it to the next level. Magic mirror and smart fitting room technology, for example, can take a 3-D image of a shopper and allow her to virtually try on clothing.

From digitally displayed social feeds to mobile wallets and radio-frequency identification scanners that can track inventory in real life, high-tech shopping experiences are here to stay. “Bringing digital into the physical environment is the future of retail,” Krakovsky says, “but it’s also the present. Brick-and-mortar stores know they have to compete with the Web, and they’re making exciting changes.”

[Editor's Note: See how some of the biggest names in retail, such as Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue, are embracing new in-store technology. Click the image below to view the slideshow.

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