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Stores are starting to feel a lot more like the internet

August 16, 2019 10:01 am
Macy's new "digital fragrance bar." Customers pick up a perfume and a touch screen lights up with information about the scent.

Traditional retailers have a problem: Heading to the store isn’t as convenient as buying on a phone or computer. So top companies are trying to make their in-store experiences more like shopping online.

Nike, Macy’s, Sephora, American Eagle, and others are adding augmented reality, interactive touch screens, and other technology to their sales floors.

These retailers hope the new technology will draw younger shoppers and reduce the hassles of shopping in stores. They also have a financial incentive to push customers to buy in the store, rather than online.

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Sales in stores are more profitable because retailers avoid paying shipping fees.

“There is now a complete blurring of the lines between online and offline,” said Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData Retail. Technology in stores “generally makes things easier, simpler, more engaging or more fun,” he added.

The days of retail clerks introducing customers to new products are long gone, experts note. Millennial and Gen Z customers’ changing shopping patterns make adding tech to stores an urgent priority for retailers.

Younger shoppers today are researching products and brands online and on their phones before they even set foot in a store. That has forced retailers to tailor new experiences to this increasingly tech-savvy audience, said Jamie Sabat, director of trends and consumer forecasting at Streetsense.

These types of technology aren’t gimmicks. In-store tech helps retailers engage customers and may spur impulse buys. “It’s not technology for the sake of technology. It’s actually useful,” she said.

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