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EDITORIAL Zara, Urban Outfitters and Argos tapping into in-store mobile

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Let the tweaking commence! As High Street stores continue to suffer, not least from the torrential rain during half term this week, some are starting to make the all-important shift towards using technology in-store to bring the convenience and detail of the web to the touchy-feely world of the shop.

In the US, Urban Outfitters is leading the charge, revamping its iOS app (Android will be tweaked later) to offer a much more slick and fun experience on device, but also to allow for in-store must-have: self-check-out.

It has also added Apple Pay and AfterPay to make the checkout process more slick both on-device and in-store, as well as adding the all-important ‘buy now, try and home, then pay’ technology that is increasingly favoured by millennials and Gen Z shoppers.

Individually, these things are minor, but together make Urban Outfitters a front runner in delivering excellent customer experience online and in-store via mobile.

Zara is attempting the same, revamping its flagship store in London’s Westfield shopping centre to bring the ‘online in store’. The project started last year with a pop up while the shop-proper as being remodelled. Now the store is open and the strategy of linking online and store together has been up and running for a while now. The results are surprising: Zara has seen an uptick in online and footfall, but not on mobile.

It seems that visitors need to be pushed more towards embracing mobile in-store to make things happen. The retailer is already piloting AR around some of its fashion week offerings to try and do this, but for now shoppers seem to want to use the desktop rather than mobile.

This bucks the trend across apparel retail, where the bulk of online shopping now comes from the mobile web. Clearly, retailers such as Zara need to do more to reinforce how mobile is the platform to revamp the in-store experience for consumers. The fact that, overall, traffic is up, shows that the theory is at least correct, it just needs some tweaks.

Argos, meanwhile, is embracing in store device use to bring Lego to life – and boost its app use. Users in Argos stores simply fire up the Lego AR part of the Argos app and hold it over the Lego box to see the model complete.

Currently, 30 models  are available to view, but by the end of July, users will be able to see up to 100 Lego toys via the AR solution.

The new AR feature comes in response to demand from Argos customers for a better way of gauging the size of toys when they buy online. Currently, 60% of Argos sales start online, with more than 70% via mobile devices.

These three retailers are at least trying to leverage mobile to bring the online world to the store and bring the best of both together. In theory, bringing the convenience of the web to the store – especially the ability to order things not on the rails or shelves and collect them quickly, learn more about products and not have to queue to pay – is a no-brainer. These retailers are bringing it to life.

Of course there are challenges – in Zara’s case, shoppers not doing what you expect – but ultimately this sort of move is going to be what keeps the High Street going. Shoppers want to go to shops, but they want it to work as well as online now does. Bringing the two together makes perfect sense.

It is encouraging to see that mainstream retailers are now really starting to do this – come autumn, my dream of never having to queue up in a shop may have actually come true.

Image: Fotolia

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