As stores increasingly vie for centre stage with online, Melissa Massey talks to innovators connecting physical stores with the digital age to better engage consumers

With the festive season closing in, retailers are beginning to consider which products to stock and how to showcase pieces in sparkling storefronts. It’s the time of year when customer habits and consumer spending is widely tracked and considered by all those with a keen interest in retail. But understanding and capturing passing trade isn’t just confined to this period of trading now, as most retail jewellers can attest to.

So, how do bricks-and-mortar stores stay ahead of the curve by capitalising on passing trade and optimising the spend of regular and loyal customers? The answer: upgrade your store to the digital age. And this doesn’t simply mean the ecommerce notion of bricks and clicks; what is really being referenced is consumer engagement with your store through the lens of technology. Adding to the allure of quality products artfully arranged with props and an attractive storefront, some retailers are now using technology solutions as a way of understanding customers and enticing them in store. Offering potential customers an insight into your store before they even get there is becoming increasingly vital, as the number of visitors engaging online continues to grow – something Google’s Business View program has sought to serve.

Photographic company Aardvark360 joined Google Business View at the early stage of its inception a few years ago and, since then, has become Google’s top Trusted Agency in the UK, shooting around three businesses a day for the virtual tour solution. Among its client roster are dozens of luxury brands and jewellers, from big players like Boodles and Links of London, to boutique houses like Heming, Tateossian and Monica Vinader.

“We are seeing exploding demand for virtual tours, as brands try to transport their retail experience online”

“We are seeing exploding demand for virtual tours, as brands try to transport their retail experience online and attract visitors from further afield,” says Aardvark360 director Jay Scott-Nicholls. “We are now at a tipping point where enough businesses have virtual tours that there is a virtuous combination of competitive pressure to keep up and demand from customers who expect it.” Now that the technology is more accessible, and because Google hosts everything online forever for free, the costs for offering a 360º view of a retail outlet are now appealingly low, starting at around

£250 for a small shoot with security features such as cameras, keypads and locks blurred so details can’t be examined. “For users, a tour is a chance to establish whether a location has the size, style and range they’re looking for, to help decide whether to go there in person,” continues Scott-Nicholls. “Luxury selling is as much about the experience around the product as the product itself. Now retailers can leverage investment in their physical retail environment by transporting it online so that customers can get closer to the in-store experience.”

Retail Jeweller, October 2015

Retail Jeweller - Oct 2015 - Technology in Jewellery Retail Article_Page_1