“Yin and yang: In Chinese philosophy … the two opposing cosmic forces into which creative energy divides and whose fusion in physical matter brings the phenomenal world into being.” — Wikipedia

What comes to mind when you think back on a great in-store experience? The smile of a helpful associate? A smooth-as-glass checkout process? An array of immersive V/R games to try out? Or maybe a tooth-and-nail fight at the dress rack is what makes it fun for you. (There are all types.)

In the world of omnichannel, in-store experience is the new linchpin to brand engagement and loyalty. Store environments that encourage return visits rather than instilling dread are their best way to mitigate the erosion of sales to online competitors. Brick ‘n mortar can either be the anchor of your omnichannel enterprise or your weakest link. And we all know what weak links do.

Big chain operators have always struggled to take the personalized service of mom and pops and scale it up to massive proportions. Over the years, we’ve increasingly looked to technology for answers, realizing that all dancers in the enterprise have to swing together harmoniously to make sure everything’s in place to serve that one particular customer. We’ve learned that to create environments where human beings feel stimulated and appreciated requires a technological grand plan. Tech is, paradoxically, the new humanizer for stores.

Retailers are already hard at work making this happen. In 2015, Oxford Economics and SAP surveyed 120 high-level executives across a variety of retail verticals. One the three main imperatives identified was the need to continuously reinvent the in-store experience. Retailers polled seem confident in their ability to do this; in fact, over 90 percent say they are already far along in their new customer experience initiatives, evidenced by an industry-wide trend to position more new hires in customer-facing positions. 

The integration of digital tech into store operations, merchandising, marketing and logistics presents us with one of the most poignant examples of the “yin/yang” of retail. The principle of yin/yang, to be clear, isn’t just about opposites; it’s about opposites that can’t exist without each other, like shadow and light. It also has to do with fusing those opposing aspects of creative energy so that they gel into tangible  (physical) form — a potent analogy for resolving the digital realm and brick ‘n mortar, right?

Many of the “touchy feely” amenities that shape consumers’ in-store perceptions couldn’t exist today without technology. Think about the Apple Store associate who had time to teach you about a new app because she didn’t need to dash back and forth to a checkout station or inventory computer. Think of the leaf blower that you spotted on the Home Depot website that really was waiting when you arrived to pick it up.

Ultimately, when retailers do digital right, humans are given the power to be more human. And — with the possible exception of those customers at that dress rack — isn’t that what it’s all about? Have a good Ying! 


TRedd

Interested in learning about how SAP Retail is powering the digital in-store experience revolution? Request a meeting and visit us during NRF 2016.

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