With the seemingly endless choice available to shoppers online, the poor old physical store can sometimes pale in comparison.

Why go to a shop where you can flick through a rail of clothes, when online you can just keep going until you find the item that is right for you?

To be frank, retailers are struggling to remain relevant to shoppers who increasingly look first to their laptops, tablets and phones when it comes to researching and buying.

The role of the in-store expert sales person has been undermined by the computational power that most of us now carry in our pockets.

However, all is not lost on the high street. Brands and retailers are starting to equip their high street stores with innovations that promise to readdress the balance, and give shoppers a powerful reason to revisit the physical store.

Samsung has been using its Korean ingenuity in rethinking the shopper experience for years. Firstly with Tesco’s Seoul metro virtual store, where consumers could use commuting downtime to carry out the weekly shop on a virtual wall.

It also ushered in the concept of the endless shelf, the idea that by using interactive touchscreen technology, retailers can give customers access to more of their inventory than would be possible in many stores.

In doing so, they create go-to retail environments in the most convenient locations.

Now the idea has been taken to another level with CenterStage. This ultra HD in-store system is being used to demonstrate Samsung’s home appliance range.

The clarity of the HD images is four-times sharper than most TVs, so consumers will feel like they are looking at life-size actual products. Using the touch screen interface customers can explore Samsung fridges, washing machines and dishwashers. 

It’s a concept that has been trialled elsewhere too. Media-Saturn, one of Europe’s leading electronics retailers recently unveiled a new store with access to products via a giant video wall and a drive-in collection point for online orders.

The aim was to improve connectivity between online and offline and regain market share from online retailers such as Amazon. Marks & Spencer’s has also developed a virtual rail that allowed shoppers in a store in Amsterdam to browse its full catalogue on large screens.

Sports shoes manufacturers in particular have been using in-store screens for some time to enable customers to customise and personalise products.

Both Adidas and Nike offer this, while New Balance has also gone as far as offering customers the chance to make the shoes in their NY store. Other categories where personalisation means that the product range is truly endless are following suit.

In automotive, a lot has been written about Audi’s use of digital technology in-store and it is a fantastic experience. But ultimately it is simply a giant size car configurator.

Jaguar Land Rover has a similar virtual showroom and both enable you to experience the options that make your new car your car.

The question for these companies, given the screen technology we are seeing come out of Korea, is now even if it is not real, can it be life-size? 

For customers, these initiatives provide an amazing interactive in-store shopping experience and one that dovetails neatly with the intuitive way that they use mobiles.

Retailers will see multiple benefits. It allows them to show a full range in a relatively small space, and creates a genuine reason to visit a store, something that many struggle to deliver. 

Floorspace is one of the most limiting factors for retailers, but the endless shelf is promising to blow open that door and revolutionise the in-store experience. Ditching the physical shelf, clothing rails and one day soon perhaps, big box store formats in favour of the endless shelf, is closer than you think. 

For more on this topic, read our posts on how in-store tech improves customer service for Schuh and why House of Fraser believes digital is key to personalising the in-store experience.

Simon Hathaway

Published 21 January, 2015 by Simon Hathaway

Simon Hathaway is the global head of retail experience at Cheil and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Q: "Why go to a shop where you can flick through a rail of clothes, when online you can just keep going until you find the item that is right for you?"

A: Fit and feel. Clicks-and-mortar retailing works great for simple cases, when the color you want is out-of-stock at the shop, or when you want a third identical t-shirt. But when members of my family want a new item that's the right fit and the material feels right, a real shop works great, whereas buying online without trying leads to 50%+ returns.

Might work for white goods and electricals though.

over 3 years ago


Kate Wooding, Strategist at Equator

I agree Pete, about the need for fit and feel when dealing in clothes. So, why not combine the best of the showroom/fitting room and online shopping in a way that will maximise floorspace and reduce the wasted space of stock rooms, get rid of the 'we don't have that colour/size in stock' problem, and allows people to use technology to add value to their in-store experience. I wrote a blog about how it could work here: http://www.eqtr.com/blog/2014/07/the-future-of-fashion-retailing/

over 3 years ago

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