Since the 1970’s, retail stores have slowly undergone a digital evolution. POS systems replaced cash registers, credit cards became the payment norm, and security tags reminded shoppers to pay. Despite these changes, the fundamentals of the customer shopping experience remained unchanged: We still pick up products, ponder a decision, and either leave empty-handed or wait in line to pay.

However, in the digitally connected store of 2012, big changes are underway. Fixed checkout aisles and cash registers are being replaced by smartphone-wielding store associates who now take the checkout to the customer. Furthermore, the smartphone generation performs self-assisted checkouts directly from their phones while sleek new in-store touch-screens allow them to experience products without opening the box or removing the coat hanger.

Welcome to the brick-and-mortar renaissance.

In my new report, The Digitization of the In-Store Experience, I take a detailed look at the digital transformation underway at retailers across the US and Europe, including:

  • The technologies being adopted. Retailers such as Lowe’s, Gap, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Sears are rolling out smartphones and tablets to their store associates and investing in next-generation interactive displays and kiosks. Certain solutions are starting to prevail across retailers.
  • The empowerment of the sales associate. Armed with smartphones and tablets, empowered sales associates are helping customers on the shop floor as well as busting checkout queues with mobile POS.
  • The business case behind the investment. Retailers are investing in the vision of “Buy Anywhere, Fulfill Anywhere.” The new digitally connected store allows them to offer up an endless assortment of products far beyond the capacity of the store shelves. The customer may still leave without a bag, but now they are increasingly likely to have a receipt.
  • The changing role of the eBusiness leader. Having successfully led the mobile commerce charge, the eBusiness team is playing an increasingly strategic and tactical role in the transformation of the in-store experience, not least because their eCommerce platform is playing a critical role in exposing rich product data into the store.

I encourage Forrester clients to read the report and join me on March 7th as I explore the brick-and-mortar renaissance further in a 1hour webinar.  As you stumble upon these technologies on your next shopping trip, please share with me your thoughts and experiences.