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Noting the shifting balance of power, from brands and retailers toward consumers, at least one observer thinks there are four things that traditional retailers need to be doing to keep those powerful customers happy.

First, stores need to become social spaces, because as social media has grown, it has encouraged consumers to expect personalized, experience-related, valuable offerings, whether in stores or at home. Therefore, the best brick-and-mortar retailers actually should become hybrid forms, integrating their social media efforts with their store environments. For example, Nordstrom leverages its vast presence on Pinterest by highlighting the “most pinned” items in stores, using massive, bright red Pinterest logos. Thus customers can quickly find the ideal handbag they saw online as they walk through this social media–enhanced store.

Second, digital should be a part of the store environment in other ways too. By providing immersive digital experiences, supported by radio frequency identification (RFID), augmented reality, beacons, and kiosks, retailers can give consumers unique and valuable interactions. For example, at GameStop, augmented reality enables shoppers to interact with virtual video game characters in stores. For people browsing through adidas storefronts, RFID throughout the stores gives the shoppers in fitting rooms additional ideas to match the items they brought in with them, as well as enable them to add products to virtual shopping carts by scanning them with their mobile phones. Representing a sort of reverse application of this trend, eBay’s smart store connects mobile app users with the store, through interactive mirrors, such that it leverages the convenience of online shopping for in-store customers.

Third, in addition to allowing customers to scan items into virtual shopping carts, modern technology grants them new ways to complete their purchases, such as through Apple Pay and CurrentC. Such service providers appear likely to account for increasing sales, and successful retailers will need to recognize that their traditional credit card readers will not be sufficient for much longer.

Fourth and finally, smart retailers will leverage all these digital touchpoints to gather appropriate data that grant them in-depth insights into consumer preferences and behaviors. Brick-and-mortar retailers might enjoy an advantage over online sellers if they can develop tracking and targeted consumer research methods that help them determine exactly how, where, and when consumers move through their stores. Such information likely will reveal why shoppers buy the items they do. These consumer data can inform inventory planning, leading to greater accuracy and fewer stockouts. They can suggest effective merchandising decisions. And they can support the use of a new, effective metric for measuring customer value, namely, cost per visit.

Discussion Question:

What technological trends should retailers be considering for their stores in the near future?