How going visual can help you connect with your customers
BY GERARD CLOS, LORD OF SITHS
As much as the death of traditional retail stores over e-commerce websites has been prophesied, reality is stubbornly denying it; 94% of all retail sales are still taking place in physical stores; 25% of attendees to retail stores end up purchasing at least one item, whereas only 0,8% of eCommerces’ visitors do so; and, what is probably more interesting, 85% of attendees to traditional retail stores visit the corresponding e-commerce website, afterwards.
It would seem like stores are the entrance door to the convenience of the virtual world but, why is it so? Why are not consumers simply overstepping physical stores? It would certainly ensure a more painless purchasing experience.
Retail consumption is more than a simple transaction
As social animals, we, humans, define and understand ourselves through how others perceive us. Through our apparel we convey not only our looks, but our thoughts and emotions. In this context, a garment takes another dimension of utility beyond covering us from cold winters; it is the way we present ourselves to our kin.
It is, thus, of capital importance for us to not only see, but also touch and feel those instruments that so powerfully help us define ourselves.
A new type of retail store
With this in mind, it is no coincidence that, as eCommerces took off, fashion brands started rethinking their traditional retail stores as a way to connect and empower their consumers. In front of the unbeatable convenience and ease of use of e-commerce, traditional stores redefined themselves as a place to engage in a conversation about how you, the consumer, want to feel and to be felt.
Consider, if not, places like Apple stores or Bonobo’s new retail stores. They look and feel like traditional stores, if not better designed, but any consumer will be able to tell you that they are much more than that. In Barcelona, for example, urban tribes meet up regularly at the centric Apple Store of Plaza Catalunya, not to buy something, but to simply “hang out”; the brand is becoming part of their social expression. Even more fascinating are Bonobo’s “guideshops”, where you cannot actually buy anything; it is the paradigm of the store conceived to be more than a traditional marketplace.
What can eCommerce do?
Up until now, eCommerces, lead by Amazon, have fought the war on traditional retail redoubling their efforts in the convenience front. But, with services like 1 hour delivery or drone delivery already in place, it is time to admit that this front is drying up. Do not get me wrong; the online retail market will continue to expand, but this growth will come primarily from the increase of internet users, not through the improvement of product quality.
It is at this point where, thanks to the advent of new technologies like IA and computer vision, we can perceive an opportunity; the opportunity to bring the experience of these new physical stores, to the e-commerce user. This is where huge gains are still to be made; bringing the visual and tactile feeling of real retail to e-commerces; giving internet users the opportunity to interact with the products that so powerfully define them, like they would do in a physical store.
At Wide Eyes Technologies, we focus on the visual experience: providing customers with the opportunity to interact with garment from photos, helping them find similar content. Take a photo of a fashion model, touch her skirt and, boom, you get an array of similar products. Touch her sweater, and you will get a complete look to complement it. It is the closest experience to browsing through a physical store, and with all the convenience of e-commerces at your disposal.
Of course, this is only the first step. Technologies like 3D tactile, or sound, will bring, ever more closely, the real shopping experience to internet users.
I strongly believe this the only direction fashion brands can sensibly head to; traditional retail is a 1000-year old business, where innovation is ever more difficult to find. Ecommerces, on the other hand, did not get serious until the beginning of this century, and huge improvements can still be done.
Keep up with us as we change the online retail experience, one brand at a time.