How to mix technology and the human touch for a winning retail strategy


5 minute read

There are several trends driving retail store growth that are proving brick-and-mortar can succeed in a digital world. Today’s consumers are craving authentic experiences to complement their digital realms. The impact of converging physical and digital shopping experiences has never been more of a priority for retailers than this year. 

According to Dan Hodges, CEO and Founder of Retail Store Tours, the top trends for 2019 include “employee training, retail environment, use of technology, business model, store design, customer management, brand story, unique concept, the human touch and change.” 

After a year of evaluating hundreds of retail organizations, Hodges and his team at Retail Store Tours released a summary of their findings. Broken down into nine segments for assessment, the team also highlights the innovative retailers who are empowering their teams to develop dynamic store practices to give customers a consistently positive retail experience. 

The summary of their findings also showcases savvy retailers leveraging their understanding of the changing consumer behaviors and emerging technology to enhance their customers’ journey. 

Here’s what they uncovered:

The Human Touch: Apple Stores hires sales associates based on their kindness and evaluates them based on customer empathy. Microsoft retail hires sales associates who are both entertaining and informative. It is noteworthy that two of the leading technology retailers are focused on the human touch as a business strategy. 

Apple Store_Human Touch_Get Elastic
Source: Apple

Use of Technology: Customer engagement technology that interacts with shoppers in-store is a winning play. Sephora’s Color IQ allows a shopper to select make-up while looking at themselves with Color IQ in- store. Apple’s sales associates use customer management software that increases responsiveness to customers, resulting in satisfaction and more time in the store. Sales Associates who are knowledgeable in product and empathetic to customers are the winning in retail store today. 

Sephora_Use of tech_Get Elastic
Source: Multivu

Employee Training: Apple, Sephora, Tiffany and other leading retailers are constantly training their employees to update their product knowledge and people skills. They use a combination of daily questions and formalized classroom training. 

Business Model: Companies focused on personalization and customization are winning in the marketplace. Two examples are Bonobos, which is an in-store showroom where men are helped to select clothes with in-store stylist and Untuckit which is a business where the shoppers are styled and sized in the store using a number of pre-sized shirts. 

Bonobos_Business Model_Get Elastic
Source: Bonobos

Store Design: The Apple store design features a minimalist approach which is a highly engaging environment. The Ray-Ban store is a multi-experience store where you can have your eyes examined and select a custom frame personalized to your taste. The Sonos store uses sound and environment to create an immersive sound experience. Sephora uses the store experience augmented by technology which is integrated into the store design. 

Customer Management: All tier one stores have store associates who use the personal touch combined with technical tools to engage and co-create the shopping experience. Aldo uses technology to connect the front-end sales associate tools with the back-end inventory. Aldo utilizes in-store technology where customers can engage directly with the products in the store and curate the styles and inventory themselves. 

Brand Story: All winning retail stores have a unique brand DNA story that was born out of a market need or a visionary founder. Tiffany, Sugarfina, Untuckit, B8TA, Warby Parker, All Birds, Amazon are some examples of the many brands that have a unique reason for being. 

Sugarfina_Brand Story_Get Elastic
Source: Sugarfina

Unique Value Proposition: The Real Real, B8ta, Everlane, Alo Yoga, Brooklinen, 3×1 and The Apartment are all distinctive offerings with a unique concept and focused purpose. These stores offer unique products and buying experiences not found elsewhere. 

Change: Retailers built to capitalize on rapidly changing consumer behaviors and trends are winners. The future belongs to the fast movers and their ability to adapt their business models. Story is an example of a store that changes its entire product offerings many times during the year. Nike’s Flagship store is another example where customers can buy online and pick-up in store in their own, secure locker. This allows the shoppers to grab and go. 

The future of retail is finding the way to converge the physical and digital shopping experiences which means finding the balance of technology and the human touch for a winning retail strategy.

Retail Store Tours’ innovative retail briefings video

Kristin Schepici
Kristin Schepici
As the Editor of Get Elastic, Kristin is dedicated to bringing Get Elastic readers top of mind topics and cutting-edge trends in technology and all things commerce.
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