Digital displays replace static merchandising, such as printed posters. These screens can do a much better job at telling stories about, say, clothes than a single printed image could. Like moving mannequins, digital displays inspire shoppers to consider products they hadn't thought about before.
"Online is terrible for serendipity -- the discovery process -- but stores are great for that," Megibow says.
Sales-assistant kiosks take the digital display even further. Shoppers can go up to a kiosk and browse clothes, mix and match outfits, check out online inventory. The more a shopper add information, the more personalized the experience. For instance, if a shopper indicates a preference for the color red or that the outfit would be for work, the digital sales assistant's predictive engine can churn out powerful suggestions.
"If I mount an iPad, I have a kiosk," Megibow says. "There's a lot I can be doing."
Minority Report Is 'Do-able'
However, the truly personalized shopping experience inside a brick-and-mortar store remains elusive. Instantaneous personalization usually requires biometric identification, and in the physical realm this means identifying someone by the gait of their walk, the five points of their face, fingerprints, palms or a retinal scan a la Tom Cruise's character in the futuristic movie "Minority Report."
"Minority Report is absolutely do-able," Price says.
The big hurdle, of course, is privacy; shoppers are not ready yet to hand over their identities to retailers.
"There's not a lot of personalization happening out there," Megibow says. "Turns out, it's very hard to do."
Price argues that it's just a matter of time before shoppers will be willing to give up a little privacy in return for convenience. In turn, this will change the customer experience dramatically, perhaps ending the need for salespeople and cashiers. It's the holy grail of brick-and-mortar retailers: shoppers walking into a store and having a unique, personalized experience.
Those days may be a ways off, but today there's mobile, digital displays, sales-assistant kiosks, and a plethora of other technology for retailers to consider.
"There's an enormous amount of disruption in brick-and-mortar retail," Megibow says.
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