We’re in lockdown again with the majority of retailers, who are eager to continue serving their shoppers, forced to shut their doors. As I take the ten-minute walk from my home to the Scala Sittard office, I have noticed that shops, as they have for the best part of a year, are trying to make safe sales where they can. Retailers, whether they are selling shoes or perfume, are making the most of their storefront by prominently placing items for sale directly in shop windows. The displayed items are accompanied by hand written or printed price tags and information on how to purchase - normally a phone number or an email address. Some shops display instagram account names, a few even have QR codes printed on paper and taped on the door.
I appreciate the ingenuity of these retailers to make the most of their storefronts to create what business they can. This use of a storefront display with a call to action, besides the usual “Come on in!” brings new meaning to the term window shopping and also seems to be begging for technological support. I see the hand written signs and I think about the efficiency and economy that a digital display could add and the benefits that integrated technology could bring to the business now as well as when lockdown lifts.
Digital windows that sell
A screen, even a tablet-sized one, positioned in the window allows retailers to more efficiently display the current price as well as features of the item along with available sizes or colours. This information could be easily updated remotely in a digital signage content management system without the need for a new bit of paper, and the outcome looks more polished. An on-screen QR code can show that the item can be purchased online with the product delivered to the customer’s home. Or, if you share my personal shopping preferences, delivery could even be done then and there. If a staff member was present in the store, they could bring my purchase to the door, serving hatch (as long as it’s permissible under the newest Netherlands retail restrictions). Perhaps, depending on the level of investment and store footprint, pick-up lockers can be added to the store exterior, extending customer experience outside the four walls. In my city, storefronts tend to be two large windows with a recessed atrium style space where the door sits. These recessed atriums would be the perfect space for lockers where purchased products are left for pick up and, given trying on clothes before you buy is currently an impossibility, where customers could leave unwanted goods that they wish to return. This remote dispatch and collection method keeps staff teams and customers safe during a pandemic but the technology would have longevity beyond lockdown.
By offering true “window shopping,” retailers have an opportunity to make sales beyond their usual opening hours and offer shoppers the ability to get their products quickly. I imagine shoe purchases being made by shoppers on their way home in the evening, perhaps when the high heels get too sore, gloves being bought on chilly mornings or perhaps even a spontaneous marriage proposal outside of a jewellery store. Whatever the circumstance, being able to offer a potential customer the chance to see a product and purchase as easily as possible will be essential for high street shops if they are going to survive.
I’ve written before about the importance of retailers to be equipped to offer a “start anywhere, finish anywhere” experience. Customers want to be able to interact with brands when, where and how they want. This enhancement of traditional window shopping offers just that. Retailers get to maximise the opportunities of their storefront and take advantage of what online cannot offer — the ability to see a product “in the flesh.” It also gives shoppers a deeper connection to the retail brand and a chance to support their high street. Blurring the line between bricks and mortar and an online experience, this version of window shopping goes beyond the current iterations of omnichannel, offering a truly flexible and multi-faceted experience. One where customers are given all the tools and every chance to purchase. It will be these creative solutions, those that offer convenience to customers as well as increase the opportunities for brands to engage individuals and make sales, that will be the difference between those shops that struggle moving forward and those that succeed.
Harry Horn is an ever-curious expert, keen to explore opportunities, share ideas and make technology benefit both business and individuals. In his decade at Scala, and now, as part of the STRATACACHE family of tech companies, Harry has seen the rise of online retail and the transformation of bricks and mortar retail spaces. An aficionado of integrated technology, Harry has a wealth of experience in applying dynamic digital solutions to transform business — from digital signs at scale to practical uses of AI, VR and AR in store. An advocate for giving customers the best experience as well as creating business efficiencies, Harry is a master of retail marketing, driven by a passion for customer insight and new technology.