The British high street is seemingly struggling, and a selection of “close encounters” that were saved by last minute investment have shattered any false sense of security that the retail world was previously basking in.
With recent research suggesting that upwards of 87% of all retail purchases within the UK are made online, it comes as no surprise that the world of e-commerce, however, is thriving. The rise in popularity of e-commerce can be attributed not only to the substantial growth of the internet, but also advancements in technology. Couple this with the increased level of competition within each individual market and you’ve got a recipe for huge expansion.
Yet in a space that is so saturated, what can retailers do to ensure they are not only matching the pace of competitors, but flourishing in the ever-changing e-commerce landscape? Many e-commerce businesses are consistently looking to the future to gage how they can improve not only their offering and user experience, but also customer satisfaction.
Digital pioneers and the uncontested leader of e-commerce, Amazon, have achieved success due to their ability to think of new and innovative ways to evolve over time. By studying competitors’ offerings, retailers are able to identify any gaps that could be filled in and by providing a product or service that others haven’t yet thought of, retailers are much more likely to be at the forefront of their sector.
Whilst innovation is clearly important in the progression of e-commerce, listening to customer feedback is also key. Taking note of what customers are saying across both social media and customer service centres opens up the opportunity to learn and improve both processes and product or service offerings.
Whilst certain cases of high street failure could imply that the digital store will always prevail, that’s simply not the case, with many bricks and mortar retailers still seeing stronger gains than online competitors. There are several potential explanations for this, but what is clear is that it’s extremely difficult to bring emotions and engagement associated with a physical store into the world of e-commerce.
In order to ensure that the online shopping experience continues to evolve, more and more digital retailers are looking to progressive technology not only to set their businesses apart from the crowd, but also to bring in that all important engagement aspect to digital purchasing.
Recent advancements have supported the emergence of digital imaging technology, a process which sees digitally encoded representations of the visual characteristics of an object being showcased to consumers. This type of technology has the capability to showcase digital products to consumers in a new way, giving a new lease of life to the customer journey and supporting the idea that consumer experience should evolve as technology does. By utilising digital imaging technology, retailers should in theory be able to show customers how products will look in “real life” without the need for a physical store.
Home furnishings brand Terrys Fabrics have identified not only a gap in the market, but how useful this particular technology would be within the online interiors retail space. The brand has worked with developers to launch an app which utilises this innovative technology to showcase over 2,000 pattern and colour variations of made to measure blinds from Terrys Fabrics within a consumer’s home.
Available to download through the iOS store as of the 1stAugust, the Terrys Fabrics Window Planner uses innovative image technology to display how a range of products will look within a consumer’s current home interiors. The way the app works is simple, customers are simply asked to take an image of their desired window, add in the appropriate dimensions and then scroll through the thousands of options available to test through the app. The app will then showcase the chosen blinds at the consumers window, giving customers the opportunity to try before they buy. Once happy with the final selection, customers are simply directed back to checkout to make their purchase.
The brand believes that this process not only eliminates the problem associated with attempting to visualise how prospective interiors will look within the home, but also allows customers to virtually test as many colours and styles of blinds as they desire, saving both time and potential expense on samples.
The brand believes that implementing this technology offering will provide an additional service for the customer which isn’t readily available across the market. Not only this, Terrys Fabrics believe that the visualisation process will be much more effective than those currently available through traditional shopping experiences, and therefore should support an increase in customer satisfaction.
Paul McGuiness, Director and Owner of Terrys Fabrics says “We believe that the future of home furnishing online depends on creating a unique buying experience, and our goal is to bring ease to the experience and remove any uncertainty from purchasing blinds online. Our app allows users to virtually try blinds in their own home at any time of day, without need for any advisor or sales representative. We’re excited to bring this development to the market and make the first steps in changing the online shopping experience for blinds and curtains.”
The Terrys Fabrics Window Planner bridges the gap between inspiration and real life and allows customers to play the role of interior designer before making a purchase. This possibility is relatively unique to the digital world, though the brand believe that this is simply the future of online shopping, and in an age of digital prevalence, its easy to see why.