In 1979 the English band The Buggles had a hit with “Video Killed the Radio Star,” which lamented advancements in video technology it feared would make traditional radio obsolete. That, of course, hasn’t happened, even in the face of streaming services and satellite. Radio’s “national currency” of network programming and services are the reason for its enormous reach and importance as a media platform.

The same parallels can be drawn for retail stores, which are not only not being rendered obsolete by digital but are in fact being greatly enhanced by it.

Here are five ways in which digital is good for the store:

  •       Associate productivity

Providing employees with mobile POS and store operations applications is one way to increase productivity.

o   Easy to use

  •   Have you ever experienced a checkout with an associate in training? The transaction probably took longer than expected and was sprinkled with comments like ‘I’m sorry, I’m new’ or ‘Hold on. Let me get the manager to help.’ That’s because traditional point-of-sale systems are not user friendly and require a steep learning curve. On the flip side, you have probably seen toddlers playing with mobile phones; the device is so intuitive that even a preschooler can figure out how to access YouTube and watch their favorite show before you even realize it’s happening. The point is, associates are already thoroughly familiar with mobile devices. If your POS leveraged existing technology, even brand new employees would be more effective with store technology.

o   Return of the associate as expert and trusted adviser

  •   Few can argue that today’s consumer, with access to products, pricing and inventory via mobile devices, is better informed than most store associates. But what if associates had access to the same information – and more – than customers? Now the associate becomes an expert providing additional value to shoppers in the store. By providing consistent value to customers, through deep knowledge, retailers can truly differentiate their brand from competitors.
  •       Omnichannel integration

By digitizing the store, the once competing channels of store and online can focus on the same thing – increasing sales.  In fact, leveraging digital channels can actually drive additional traffic into the stores. Here’s how:

o   Closest store, inventory or pickup

  •   Browsing online but want something now? What a great way for digital to drive customers into stores for that immediate gratification than by leveraging your online or mobile site to direct customers to their closets stores with assured access to inventory. Or order something now and pick up at the store.

o   Product information

  •   Blend physical and digital by giving customers the information they expect online with the experience they want in store.

o   Carts as wish lists

  •   The shopping cart is quickly becoming consumers’ favorite way to save items or create wish lists. According to the Mobile Shopping Focus Report “73% of online shoppers use the shopping cart to store items to buy later.” With more and more mobile users unable to function without their phone nearby, the mobile cart is quickly becoming a way for shoppers and retailers to unify online and offline retail.
  •       Engage consumers

Digital interaction in the store helps engage consumers in new ways.  By offering customers, especially millennials, digital store experiences, stores can expand opportunities for conversion.

o   Interactive kiosks allow consumers to self-serve, learning more about products which can lead to greater interest and interaction with a store associate to convert the sale.

o   Smart dressing rooms allow retailers to surpass the physical limitations of the retail space by offering customers a 360 degree view of outfits and alternative lighting. They can even analyze a customer’s features to make flattering product recommendations.

  •       Personalization

Consumers’ view of personalization is being shaped by today’s digital experiences where they receive tailored offers and recommendations while shopping online or via a mobile device.  This same experience is hard for an instore associate to deliver.  However, digital technologies such as geolocation, a combination of location based technologies and a consumer mobile device, are allowing retailers to recognize consumers in a whole new way.

In addition to geolocating, stores can also take advantage of mobile loyalty which allows stores to identify a consumer before making a decision in order to better influence the purchase decision.

  •       Streamline operations

Digital is enormously important for improving retail operations.  There is a great deal of time spent on paper-based manual tasks in the store, and by digitizing these tasks not only are you able to reduce time spent, but also increase efficiency. For example, associates can be alerted on their mobile when inventory is low vs. waiting to to run an end of day report; or they can dynamically reassign resources based on real-time information on peaks of the day. In the not-too-distant future, managers will be able to run their entire store operations from their palm of their hand.

Digital is not the enemy of the store. It is an integral part of the store of today and the store of the future. The only reason brick and mortar retailers should fear digital is if they fail to embrace it in one or, hopefully all, of the ways mentioned here.

It’s worth remembering that music videos didn’t kill radio, and neither has music streaming. In fact, Pew Research Center finds that 93% of Americans listen to AM/FM radio, higher than television viewership. Interestingly, that’s about the same percentage of retail (give or take) that still takes place in stores.