Retail outlets are adopting touchscreens and other devices to help their customers obtain information on products, see what’s in stock and even make their purchase. These online services are designed to meet the growing demand for ease of information.

In-Store Online Services on the Rise


Shops are making increasing use of digital gizmos in-store, says Forrester Research in its report The Digitization of the In-Store Experience. It seems that a quarter of all shoppers have already come across in-store computers which help them to go and find products or try one out. More and more brands have realised that giving shoppers the opportunity to combine the advantages of both online and offline experiences in-store improves sales. And the report cites figures from North American Consumer Technographics showing that in spite of the advantages of the Internet, 34% of all shoppers wish to actually see an article before they buy it, and 33% want to get their hands on their purchase immediately after paying for it. But digitisation has also brought with it another reality: the increase in available information and easily accessible options has raised the public’s expectations as regards in-store customer service.

Interactive Technology

These new technologies mean that stores can respond to customers’ most exacting demands for fast information. The Forrester report states that 10% of American mobile phone owners use them in-store to obtain information. Digitisation means they can get it immediately via such devices as the kind of interactive table provided by Clinique, which offers product information when you put the item on the table. Other interactive technologies such as the Augmented Reality Kiosk, Lego’s ‘Digital Box’, allow you to see what’s inside the box you’re holding. At Topshop, a customer can even try on clothes using a screen which films the shopper and adapts images of the clothes to the person in front of it, so s/he no longer has to endure the wait for a changing room. According to Forrester, it isn’t just about being useful, the idea is to amuse and entertain as well. Technology can also increase the size of the average shopping basket, as at Shibuya where a screen suggests accessories and alternatives when you take an item from a shelf.

Mobile Technology

Moreover, using in-store technology also helps staff focus on customer needs. It means they no longer have to walk around the store, thus eliminating waiting time during which the customer might change his/her mind. A salesperson can now find out what s/he has in stock, call a colleague, and even, as at Gap and Apple, take your payment on the spot using a mobile terminal. S/he can also send emails, clock in and out, and coordinate tasks among the team without the need for a fixed workstation. Without the need for fixed equipment, even the design of the store can be more flexible, making it easier to change the layout of the product displays. In addition it gives the consumer greater autonomy and s/he can sometimes pay directly from a mobile phone. But Forrester sounds a warning. These technologies are not always appropriate for all types of purchases - such as autonomous payments for alcohol - nor are they necessarily good news for all companies in the long term.