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The Best Of Both Worlds

Despite the rapid growth of ecommerce, the physical shopping experience is still key for consumers.



It has been over a decade since e-commerce players began to stamp their mark onto the retail landscape globally. However, even as traditional brick and mortar retailers rushed to set up their online channels, there's been an interesting twist to the phenomenon in recent years.

The pure online retailers have been opening physical stores in an effort to plug the gap in their customers' shopping experience. Ecommerce giants Amazon and Alibaba have both opened brick and mortar spaces, while closer to home, fashion etailer Zalora has experimented with temporary pop-up stores.

Industry players say that for certain retail segments, such as fashion, the ability to touch and feel the product remains important. The physical shopping experience also fulfills an emotional need that goes beyond mere consumption - what you and I might refer to abstractly as "retail therapy".

Here are some of the more exciting developments in the convergence between the physical and virtual shopping worlds.

Click and Collect

As the online and offline retail experiences collide, ecommerce players are using physical spaces to handle collections and returns. Amazon opened its first physical store on the campus of Purdue University in February this year. After ordering online, customers can pick up their purchases at this location, which also houses online ordering terminals and lockers.

Interactive billboards

Companies like Singapore startup MedialogyLab offer solutions that can turn outdoor digital signboards in shopping malls and bus stops into interactive touchscreens, allowing for more dynamic content, such as videos and call-to-action “tap zones”. The result: consumers get a more targeted, personalised shopping experience while retailers are better able to drive customers from the mall to the store.

Augmented reality in window displays

Augmented reality, or AR, has the power to bring a shop window to life. Earlier this year, British department store Harrods showcased an AR window display for Russian jeweler Fabergé. The display showed off an interactive man-sized 3D egg. Visitors were able to choose their favourite Fabergé egg pattern through an iPad inside the store and have it projected onto the egg in the window.

Virtual changing rooms

3D body scanning technology is being used by retailers to let consumers try on clothes of different styles and sizes virtually in a store's dressing room. Likewise, a virtual make up mirror allows a shopper to see how a cosmetic product will look on an image of her face.

Electronic shelf labels

Retailers can now change the prices and information displayed on their store shelves across their whole network of outlets within seconds. Solutions using bluetooth beacons on the shelves allows retailers to send customised messages straight to the shopper in an outlet.

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