The US retail chain Nordstrom started to experiment with a small concept store that focuses on services and that doesn’t stock any inventory. It is a familiar concept that other many other businesses have used in the past: they created showrooms for their customers to try out their products.
What has changed, however, is the amount of tech that can be applied in this kind of showrooms. By tapping into tools like mobile apps, interactive displays with conversational interfaces (“bots”) a showroom starts to generate valuable information about customers. This is exactly what happens on the Web with online stores. People go to online stores and leave information by browsing – giving retailers the opportunity to learn and to adapt their online offers.
Now, with showrooms that are digitally enriched, retailers create a bridge from the physical world into the digital one. They learn about their customers intentions and can start to adapt their offers. Since showrooms have limited inventory, changes can be applied rather quickly. For example, by analyzing local trends on social media, they can adapt their showroom according local tastes. This effectively turns brick and mortar stores into web pages, with dynamic content. A straightforward extension is the integration of user generated content. On the web there are ratings, reviews, comments about products, all given by customers. This is basically “gold” for businesses, since user generated content drives product sales.
Showrooms can include this kind of content by providing customers the means to leave and access comments/ratings/recommendations by other customers using interactive screens or a combination of mobile apps and interactive screens.
In the end it’s no longer a fight of brick and mortar businesses against online businesses. It’s learning from online businesses and applying online concepts to offline stores and redesigning them accordingly.
[this blog entry appeared originally on the IKANGAI blog]