Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying

Birgit Nazarian, Writer, specializing in IT and HR | 3/30/2012 | 32 comments

Birgit Nazarian
Self-service kiosks that help you locate products, get more information, or order items that aren’t available in the store are a good way to help stem the hemorrhaging of business to Internet retailers. Shoppers who enjoy the experience of brick-and-mortar stores or are simply more comfortable seeing products for themselves get the best of both worlds from a rich, hybrid experience that combines bricks and mortar with technology.

Part of the reason we shop online is because a store’s size might limit its inventory and its capacity to display merchandise. Recently, I found the perfect T-shirt at the perfect price, and I wanted one in every color. But -- too bad for me -- many other women apparently had the same idea, and there were no more in my size. I walked up to the new self-service kiosk in the store. Using the bar code scanner attached to the kiosk, I located my item and placed an order. The in-store discount applied, and there were no shipping charges. Obviously, that was much better than missing out on a good deal or even visiting the retailer’s Website later and paying for shipping.

A good self-service system like that one helps stores win over customers, increase sales, and save money in the long run. The ROI depends on the overall costs, and there are several things to consider up front.

  • Short term costs: equipment purchases, software, systems integration, and site installation
  • Long term costs: content management, system management, equipment monitoring, and repairs

Though kiosk hardware and software costs are coming down, many IT departments and managers might be asking themselves whether they should go with a manufacturer’s software (designed to be customized) or develop the software in-house. A lot of thought needs to go into implementing a kiosk system, including future needs, scalability, and the costs of developing in-house software if that’s decided. It’s a big investment, so it doesn’t hurt to get many heads together on this one, including the store planning, IT, marketing, and even legal departments.

In designing the ultimate experience for the customer, planners should discuss the kiosk's location, how obvious the purpose is to a shopper, the complexity of using it, and the speed and reliability of the unit and its peripherals. The overall experience should be easy on the users. They should get what they need quickly, and they should be able to make a transaction without hassle.

ROI can be measured in a variety of ways. A kiosk may mean you need fewer workers on the floor to assist customers. During peak times like holidays and weekends, the kiosk may provide faster service to customers. And every customer order made using the kiosk in the store becomes data that’s measurable for ROI.

Though electronic kiosks haven’t always been embraced by those who prefer dealing with a human being, willingness to interact with technology has increased exponentially in recent years. This survey shows 51 percent of shoppers are interested in using kiosks in stores. And 42 percent are interested in the even more expensive and robust "video walls."

Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, the general public has grown ever more accepting of kiosks, and the increased availability of these virtual sales assistants will further increase that willingness. In the survey, almost 74 percent of shoppers said they did research online -- sometimes directly in the store -- before making a purchase. The best thing you can do for yourself and your customers is to make that research and the purchase that follows as easy as possible. Hybrid shopping gives you that ability.

View Comments: Threaded | Newest First | Oldest First
DBK   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 1:18:25 PM
Brick and Mortar w/Click to order

I am a fan of the convince of shopping on line.  But as a consumer I do want to respect and retain my local merchants too.  It appears that more companies that offer the convenience of the on line experience are now letting you shop on line and pick up from your local store.  This model won't work for most boutiques but it is a step toward integration of the click to order while preserving the brick and mortar.  Your post is an indication that other steps are being taken to address the needs and habits of the consumer.  This is very good but we still have some challenges to deal with as professional vendors and consumers.  Part of the challenge in today's market is margin erosion.  As a Value Added vendor who also has to compete with online vendors that experience low cost of doing business and sell based on low price ultimately erode margins.  And once margins are eroded it is hard to recover and it makes it hard for anyone to make money other than offering high volume.  A complicated world we live in.

JPoe   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 1:47:19 PM
Brick/Mortar issues
It really is a a challenging time for brick/mortar outfits. There are a lot of people (apparently) who visit physical locations/stores with no intention of actually making a purchase from the store; rather, they are there to eyeball the products, touch them, and then make purchasing decisions that affect what they'll later do online.

So it's really important that the stores affected be better at getting shoppers to make a purchase while in the store. Hybrid--as a concept--sounds great. But for many companies, there are  fundamental changes that need to be made.
Zaius   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 4:14:12 PM
Re: Brick/Mortar issues
Noiw when they make the same kiosk available on your smart phpone or rablet PC or netbook then I will like it. Finding the store's kiosk is not always easy and standing in line to use one is not my favorite thing to do. However, gpooing to a nearby place to sit, cafe or whatever, even in the store, and using my phone to get what I need is great. I prefer to shop on line since it requires no gas, less time and the stores where I shop have really good descriptions and 360 degree phoptos etc.
bnazarian   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 10:34:43 PM
Re: Brick/Mortar issues
From what I can see, brick and mortar chain stores are doing their level best to compete with the online retailers. There is a lot of technology now in places like American Eagle, Kohls, Walmart-- just about everywhere. I am glad they haven't thrown in the towel because I really believe we need to be present to shop for certain things. I recently ordered swimsuits from an online retailer. Only out of desperation (because I am tall, most brick and mortar stores don't stock tall women's clothes). Ideally I would be able to go to a physical store, try on some suits and if they didn't have the color, style or size I wanted, I could turn to an in store self service kiosk and get exactly what I wanted with the added benefit of checking out the merchandise first hand. Best. Possible. Scenario (for me as a consumer anyway).  Yes, it's expensive and a bit of a pain to buy and maintain self serve kiosks, but it works well for larger chain stores I believe. 
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LuFu   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 2:25:51 PM
Up against Amazon
@Birgit - One example of the hybrid brick and mortar hybrid is what Barnes and Noble is doing with their Nook. They have many disadvantages competing with Amazon but sometimes they can turn that to an advantage. In this case they installed Nook to use at many retail locations as a kiosk. Customers use it for customer service inquiries and exploring and also get check out a Nook at the same time. Ditto for Apple store's where you use an iPad to check out the online Apple store within an Apple store.
Umair Ahmed   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 11:17:57 AM
Re: Up against Amazon
@ Lufu: Wow, that's truly amazing. I hope the Barnes & Noble don't charge the store for the Nooks provided as kiosk.
freespiritny25   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 3:47:31 PM
Hybrid Shopping
Hybrid shopping seems like a great idea- you get the best of both worlds! Hybrid shopping would be a more convenient way to shop, especially for us savvy internet shoppers.
syedzunair   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 4:18:34 PM
Re: Hybrid Shopping
It depends on the kind of things you intend to buy. Most people will prefer the brick and mortar stores for things that can be compared only by looking at both items at the same time. 

I remember going to a store and actually comparing the results of the LCD TV's of the two brands that I shortlisted. Eventhough, I had browsed through the technical specifications online, I just had to see the two side by side to make a decision. 
JPoe   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/30/2012 4:58:59 PM
Re: Hybrid Shopping
Did you end up making the purchase at the company that had the physical presence, or a different company?
syedzunair   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 3:43:35 AM
Re: Hybrid Shopping
I actually bought one at the same store after I saw the results of the two brands placed side by side. 
nimanthad   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 5:19:02 AM
Re: Hybrid Shopping
So what is you opinion on both compaing to each other ?
JPoe   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 9:41:19 AM
Re: Hybrid Shopping
@syedzunair,

Then you made that company happy. They got the outcome they wanted, and you got to evaluate the goods prior to purchase. Everybody wins.
white.space   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 9:13:43 PM
Re: Hybrid Shopping
Even though, I had browsed through the technical specifications online, I just had to see the two side by side to make a decision. 

I know the feeling; thats why I used to buy books at the store when Borders was around. There was just something about the touch and feel and smell of the book, coupled with instant gratification of having the book on your hand, just that minute. These days I am on the Kindle for the most part, and do miss the book shop experience at times. 



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tinym   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 2:02:47 PM
Location, Location, Location
Birgit, can I ask what store you were in when you used the kiosk mentioned? I'm thinking you were at Target, but I'm probably wrong. They seem like a company that would offer this kind of experience.
bnazarian   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 10:42:32 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@TinyM and white.space, 

I was in Kohls. But recently I notice kiosks and different variations of signage and self service devices in so many stores I have begun to gravitate towards them to see what they can do for me to help me find items or even order items that aren't available in the store. Another example is Land's End in Sears. They only stock a small selection (relatively speaking) that the catalog offers, but they have computer screens and catalogs (and I expect them to upgrade to kiosks sometime in the future since you usually have a salesperson help you with in store orders now) for you to use in placing an order. 
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Gigi   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 6:24:29 AM
Gigi
Re: Location, Location, Location
Birgit, both have its own advantage and disadvantages. Kiosk can have feelings of real time physical shopping. Where we are trying for trials and have a real look for the quality of products. But in online shopping, there won't be such chances; we have to believe the product description available along with the product. But cost to the product is less when compare with the physical shops.
David Wagner   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 10:56:13 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
I think it is really astute to bring the online experience into the brick and mortar space. Out of curiosity, do we think we're just going to see online and brick and mortar merge? The rumors that Amazon will be heading into brick and mortar persist despite how far fecthed it sounds.
David Wagner   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 11:00:36 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
The one thing that I wonder about this is if the better way to handle this is through an app rather than kiosk. With everyone having a smart phone why bring in another piece of computer equipment?
Henrisha   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 3:55:03 AM
Re: Location, Location, Location
David, you have a point. Personally, I'd prefer a kiosk because that way, I wouldn't have to download anything on my app or have to go hunting around for some way to get the app. The kiosk would make things simpler because it's there in the store, right in front of me, just waiting to be used.

Each alternative has its pros and cons, but I think both would do relatively well in improving the customer's shopping experience.
David Wagner   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 12:19:03 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@henrisha- I think right now, the best thing for a retailer to do is probably have an app AND a kiosk right now for that very reason. But I suspect the kiosk will give way in the long run.
bnazarian   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 10:28:52 AM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@David,

Actually there is a lot of debate flying around in the kiosk industry websites about this very topic right now and you're right, it's one of the issues they are very concerned with and interested in.

Smartphones are reaching an impressive market penetration but they aren't in the hands of all the shoppers. People like us on E2 of course are familiar with all the conveniences of Smartphones but they are still expensive and relatively complex devices for some. In a place like Kohls in my Ohio neighborhood for example, the typical shoppers are not your typical Smartphone carriers -- plus our cell coverage is still spotty in places. In that nearby Kohls store though, the sales staff appeared to be well versed in how the kiosk worked and can assist users and encourage them to use it themselves on their next visit. Personally I like the large screen on the kiosks (could be my age) and the fact that it's ready to use with the information I need already displayed. 
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David Wagner   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 12:23:37 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@birgit- True about penetration. i saw an article this weekend that put something into perspective. The electronics product with the quickest market pentraiton ever was the boom box. Go figure.

Anyway, you're right that the kiosk makes a good transition technology. But i suspect higher end retailers will prefer the smart phone app as a way of getting the right customers.
tinym   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/3/2012 8:47:59 AM
Re: Location, Location, Location
I say an app and kiosks. Assuming everyone has a smartphone would be a bad move for retailers since not everyone does, especially lifelong shoppers of older brands.
bnazarian   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 10:35:52 AM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@David,

If Amazon were to create a brick and mortar would it look something like Barnes & Noble do you think? After all, B&N carries not just books but more and more toys and products that aren't book related.

The merging makes sense to me. We all want a nearly infinite selection of inventory and we want to examine what we're buying, right? I choose the brick & mortar bookstore everytime over the online one because I want to go there and have the experience, buy a coffee, browse titles. You can't do it the same way online. If they don't have it on the shelf I order it from their help desk shipped to my house. And I still get my coffee. 
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David Wagner   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 12:30:50 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
If Amazon were to create a brick and mortar would it look something like Barnes & Noble do you think? After all, B&N carries not just books but more and more toys and products that aren't book related.

I would think Amazon would have to do one of two things:


1) Make a store much more like Walmart than B&N. They're known now for having everything under the son. If they were just books and stuff it wouldn't be enough. There will soon be a lot of big box vacanies out there, too with Best Buy, HH Gregg, Sears, KMart and others considering or committing to closing stores. The available real estate has to be enticing.

On the other hand, there's a reason big box stores are struggling so maybe it is a bad idea.

2) The alternative would be to reinvent the store. Some sort of showroom and kiosk system so you could see the product you are buying on a demo floor but order the product to be shipped to your house. Essentially that's what is happening to those big box stores. People are going to the stores, looking at the product, checking Amazon's price and then ordering it on their phones right there in someone elese's store. It is called "scan and scram."

Amazon or whoever succeeds in the future will solve the scan and scram problem one way or another.
bnazarian   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 4:19:32 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@David, 

I look forward to seeing how Amazon does a retail store. I would definitely check it out, especially if they have one within 100 miles of me! They can go low end or high end. Be like Sharper Image + with a lot of electronics and one of a kind items or they can be a Walmart type super store. I prefer the former to the latter. Especially if they offer kiosks for ordering all the other things available.
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batye   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 4:26:32 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
it would be interesting big players like BestBuy and Sears closing retail location's but Amazon planning to open , maybe Amazon have something new in it sleve...

from the past Amazon always able to change the market ...
tinym   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/3/2012 8:50:54 AM
Re: Location, Location, Location
Good stuff, David! You're really onto something here.
I'd like to drop by the local "Scan and Scram" to demo something I've been eyeing online for months.
David Wagner   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/3/2012 5:30:39 PM
Re: Location, Location, Location
@tinym- I like the way you phrase that. Some retail company out to actually create stores called "Scan and Scram" based on this idea. It is the perfect evolution from the 5 and 10.
impactnow   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 5:08:14 PM
Hybrid is the future

Absolutely hybrid will be necessary for bricks and mortar businesses to survive. I think our expectations have changed and we are expecting the in store experience to mimic our online experience. I  the future we will se more digital and interactive signage and display and more tablet usage in store.

white.space   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   3/31/2012 9:18:25 PM
Solving the SCM and logistics issues
This sounds interesting, and I echo some of the other posts in asking which store where you in? Macy's probably has something like this, if I remember right, would be nice to know of a few others. 

I also have a question on the delivery. Were the items shipped to you? Or did you have to go pick it up from the store at same stage? This is relevant because a lot of companies look at brick and morter stores as separate business units, and sometimes even different stores of the same franchise compete for business. Wonder how having facilities like this affect the supply chain and logistics of these companies.. Any thoughts?
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Henrisha   Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying   4/2/2012 3:53:47 AM
Re: Hybrid Shopping Makes Brick-and-Mortar Stores More Satisfying
Speaking like a true shopaholic, I'm all for anything that would enhance the shopping experience, whether online or in brick-and-mortar stores. In my opinion, it's only a matter of time before these two merge or before stores release some sort of hybrid in both channels.

For example, I recently went on Babies R Us to shop for some supplies for my sister, who had just given birth. I liked that there was an option to pick up the items in store rather than have them shipped, because it's more accessible that way sometimes. I know many stores do this, and it might seem like a small thing at the outset, but the amount of work required to do this is, I'm sure, extensive. But it makes everything convenient for the shopper (which encourages them to buy), so why not?


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