The role of the store is changing. Consumers are increasingly able to research products and services they are interested in buying, via their own digital devices, anywhere they choose – whether it’s browsing on their tablet while watching TV or their smartphone during the morning commute.

Customers often arrive in store armed with a wealth of information, which can put sales associates on the back foot. Retailers are currently exploring how to bring digital capabilities in store to improve customer service and engagement – both via their sales associates and directly to customers. But retailers must not get side tracked by shiny new “star wars” style technology. For digital store experience technologies to be successful, they must integrate with enterprise wide systems and have a tangible impact on in-store customer experience and/or operations.

To help digital business executives assess their digital store capabilities, Forrester has developed the Digital Store Functionality Benchmark as part of the Digital Store Playbook 2016. In this new benchmark Forrester assesses 20 retailers across the US and the UK for their use of in-store digital technology to support customer engagement and service as well as store operations.

Key takeaways from the evaluation are:

It Is Early Days For The Digital Store. Retailers are just starting their digital store transformation projects, with 16 of the 20 retailers scoring less than 50 of a total of 100. Many are still developing supporting technology and in the process of piloting various applications for new technology in-store.

Leaders Digitally Enable Both Associates' Selling And Customer Engagement In-Store. Higher-scoring retailers in this benchmark don't only focus on enhancing customer-facing digital functionality in-store. Leaders digitally enhance associates' customer service and sales capabilities to meet customers' higher expectations and improve store operations.

Digital Technology In-Store Is Not One-Size-Fits-All. All of the retailers that we spoke to as part of the benchmarking research roll out digital store capabilities incrementally, paying close attention to the impact on both customer satisfaction and store operations during pilot programs. This approach embraces failure and flexibility, allowing retailers to quickly pull and adapt functionality that doesn't have the desired impact.

Retailers across categories have different products and store formats, which result in different priorities for digital technology in store. Forrester can help digital business teams gauge their digital store capabilities using the Digital Store Functionality Benchmark. Please contact your dedicated Account Manager for further information, or set up an inquiry with me and I will be happy to discuss!