Ketner Group Musings on Retail: Finding the Perfect Blend of Technology and People

November 8, 2016  | By Catherine Seeds

In the past few years, it would seem that the appeal of “traditional” physical retail stores is decreasing. After all, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, eCommerce grew 14.6% in 2015 with online sales accounting for more than half of total retail sales growth.

Even with this tremendous amount of growth in the online channel, the store is still the heartbeat of retail. But the reality is this: What we as shoppers really want, what we crave, is for our favorite retailers to create new and refreshing reasons for us to visit their physical stores.

Spoiler alert: it’s all about technology with a human touch!

So what, exactly, does this partnership of technology and human touch translate to?

Human touch means assisted selling in the store, in which store associates capture customer preferences and provide more targeted recommendations with the help of mobile devices that contain attribute information for all retail products. The result? Associates can become highly-effective personal “style” advisors when they combine their own knowledge of a product with readily available product information and customer preference indicators.

So too does it translate to relaxed spaces in-store where customers can learn and call on associates if they need or want to. Apple has been a leader in this type of dynamic in-store environment for ages.

Photo provided by Tech Times
Photo provided by: Tech Times

Since then, other retail stores have taken note. For example, London-based department store, Selfridges, has brought that “technology meets human” feel to the store by launching a multi-sensory yoga experience by partnering with East London yoga duo, Yung Club. Smaller scale retailers like STORY have taken the store experience to another level. Their 2000 square foot Manhattan store is part magazine, part store. Every four to eight weeks, it completely reinvents itself from design to merchandise in order to address a new theme, trend or issue.

Human touch in the store becomes especially useful when it partners with technology that pulls together disparate pieces of information. Think Clueless in the real world! Consider the example of a shopper pulling up a digital version of their own closet to see if a top they’ve found at a retail store matches their skirts. Adding that insight to a full product catalogue allows the store associate to purchase that top from another store should their location be out of stock. By connecting all channels with human insight, shoppers can truly find the right product at the right moment. The end result is a delightful and share-worthy shopping experience for the customer.

The Ketner Group team looks forward to hearing more about how human and machines are working together to create relevant, intimate and memorable customer experiences. We’re excited to find out the extent to which the future success of retailers hinges on connecting these two things to build memorable brand experiences. Retailers that effectively blend human touch with technology stand apart from the rest and not only “win,” they kill it.