Touch-screen Transformation: Technology streamlines the retail experience, while also making a brand feel edgy and modern

By Steve Jones, International Director, Multi-site / Retail Project Management, JLL

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Retailers are incorporating technology into brick-and-mortar stores in order to improve efficiency, while simultaneously enhancing their brands. The use of technology to enrich the customer experience heightens the quality of shopping for loyal customers and also draws in new ones.

Businesses of the past are bringing in the latest in sales and distribution technology to give their stores a much needed boost of energy. During the past few years, movie ticket sales have slumped. In reaction, theaters have started to incorporate technology into all aspects of their businesses. AMC has done full-out remodels of their theaters to incorporate iPads into the seats so movie-goers can order concessions right from their chairs. This saves on labor costs and also expedites the concession and ticket sale processes.

Panera 2.0

Panera Bread Company has debuted Panera 2.0 at 410 locations, bringing technology and a new customer flow into their café spaces. Panera placed iPads in all of their new stores to give a fresh ordering option to their guests, cutting down on human error and streamlining inefficiencies. Panera notes that the new iPad and tech features help recapture customers that would have previously left the store due to long-lines and wait times. With Panera 2.0 in effect, sales at company-owned restaurants have seen a near eight percent increase through the past four quarters.

Big box retailers, like Target, are also incorporating technology through mobile coupon applications such as Cartwheel, allowing customers to digitally browse and use coupons while in store. Grocers are following suit by allowing shoppers to virtually clip coupons for specific items and add them to their orders at check out by using their phone numbers at the registers.

Starbucks on Video

Sometimes a technology intended to streamline work flow has the dual benefit of bolstering a company’s brand. Starbucks upgraded its drive-through to include two-way video ordering, so that morning commuters would still get the personalized Starbucks barista experience. Recently, a video appeared on YouTube showing an individual with a hearing impairment ordering via the video feature using sign language. Video ordering creates efficiency, but more importantly, connects employees and customers in a positive way, reinforcing the community branding that Starbucks looks to achieve.

By solving customer stress points with technology, retailers enhance the customer experience. These solutions can also open up opportunities to build upon the existing brand.