Retail CIOs have always had a tough job, but digital makes it tougher. Emerging digital technologies threaten to transform retail experiences both in stores and at home. Without a good business case, CIOs at large retailers will find it hard to prepare their business to compete with small, nimble startups. My latest report highlights the potential of today’s digital technologies to radically disrupt the retail industry once more. It serves as a call to CIOs to begin shaping their strategy to digitize the end-to-end customer experience and start proving the business case in time to make the investments needed.

Specialty fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff is creating a truly differentiated in-store customer experience by combining RFID tags with new technologies like digital mirrors in the changing room connected to employee mobile devices. At the NYC Rebecca Minkoff store, customers can select products from racks or a digital fashion wall and head to the dressing room, where they meet their personal fashion consultant. Once in the dressing room, a digital mirror displays all the products and sizes the customer has in the room. The customer can easily request a new size by selecting it on the mirror. The consultant delivers the new sizes to the dressing room without the customer having to redress or wander the store half-undressed. By extending what Rebecca Minkoff has already achieved, we get a glimpse of a future in-store experience that helps each customer quickly find more products that satisfy their desires.

Rebecca Minkoff digital experiences provide a glimpse into the future of retail

In the not too distant future leading retailers will combine augmented reality and sensors to create higher value customer experiences.

Digitized Experiences Will Quickly Become Table Stakes. 

As customers become used to new digital experiences, their expectations of what’s normal for an in-store experience will reset — requiring all retailers to provide similar experiences or lose customers. Traditional retailers are in a race with online retailers to develop new, high-value digital shopping experiences.

Physical Stores Must Tailor Retail Experiences To The Individual.

Brick-and-mortar retailers will use digital technology to personalize shopping experiences to the individual and create more immersive and engaging in-store experiences that will be hard to replicate at home. Digital is the key that will unlock the future of brick and mortar retail.

Digitized Concept Stores Will Identify The Highest-Value Innovations.

To sort the hype from the reality, CIOs need to test and learn, taking a leaf from mobile software development that uses a minimum viable product (MVP) approach to get customer feedback. CIOs must build MVP digitized concept stores to prove their business case.

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