We’ve all been told time again that the in-store shopping experience is undergoing seismic change. Technologies such as beacons, omnichannel fulfillment and in-store analytics have promised to change the definition of how a retail store engages with customers. And although iron-clad digital store success stories are few and far between, stores will continue to chase the digital store dream despite not knowing the precise endgame. A handful of market leaders are implementing digital store initiatives that will act as lighthouses to the rest of the industry, showing a glimpse of what's possible with the right strategy.

In 2016, Forrester believes that:

Digital operational improvements will emerge as the golden child of store digitization. Trying to engage shoppers with shiny new technologies makes for some pretty flashy headlines, but does little to boost the retailer’s bottom line. On the other hand, store operations-focused technologies have shown early, but real, results. Tools such as in-store analytics and associate task management are ushering in a new era of store efficiency, using real-time insights to help associates understand what needs to get done and when.  The smartest retailers will start combining data from sources like online behavior, in-store analytics, supply chain, and labor planning to make operational decisions in real time. 

Store systems will drive engagement, not just keep records. As cloud-based applications enter the store in force, retailers will suddenly have more agile ways to deploy technology in the store. Retailers who have been working tirelessly to create inventory visibility and APIs for commerce and engagement applications will now be able to use these services to drive additional applications, such as mPOS, in the store. The store will ultimately act as a single platform, connecting functionality together with a common set of data.

Existing digital ecosystems will help retailers expedite in-store personalization. Because in-store customers are already in the midst of their purchase journey, personalization that adds value to the store shopping experience is low-hanging fruit for retailers. As  such, we expect to see an increased emphasis on delivering in-store contextual value. This could include an “in-store mode” on the retailer’s mobile app that uses geofencing to offer targeted services to in-store customers, or partnering with social networks to jumpstart the retailer’s offline mobile engagement strategy.

In the report “Predictions 2016: The Digital Store Engagement Surprise”, Forrester dives into the forward-looking digital store trends and technology use cases. As always, please set up an inquiry with me to discuss your store’s future in greater detail.