It has become a mission, as of late, for retailers to figure out how to craft the perfect omnichannel experience for their shoppers. In many cases, the solution that retailers find to the omnichannel challenge turns out to be interactive technology.
Staples, which bills itself as "the world's largest office products company," recently launched its pilot omnichannel stores incorporating kiosks, digital signage and wayfinding screens to leverage the company's expansive brick-and-mortar holdings with the digital capabilities of the "world's second largest Internet retailer," the company said.
The stores, located in Norwood, Mass., and Dover, Del., incorporate Staples.com and Staples' mobile assets into the retail experience, letting customers shop how they want, the company said.
"We listened to our customers and provided the products, services and features they need to succeed," said Demos Parneros, president, North America Stores and Online, in the announcement. "Our stores make efficient use of space while offering more products and services than ever through our mobile and online features. We also know that shopping is an occasion, and we've created a fun experience for our customers. We're very proud of our omnichannel stores and this is just the beginning as we'll continue to evolve our network."
The stores feature several touchscreen kiosks, providing customers with access to endless aisle shopping and ordering capabilities, store circulars, an "ink and toner finder" feature and a "furniture selector" to shop for office furnishings.
At the front of the stores shoppers are greeted by overhead digital signage screens that let "reserve online, pick-up in-store" shoppers know their orders are ready, and the prototype stores also use digital signage screens to explain to shoppers all the new functionalities of the omnichannel stores.
The wayfinding or informational screens in the stores' "business lounge" area "cycle through what we call the highlights of the store, explaining to everyone, especially in these early stages, what the omnichannel store is all about," a Staples spokesman said.
According to a March article in the Boston Business Journal, the chain's smaller omnichannel stores are intended to create "an office-supply convenience store model" of stores that can achieve high sales retention with a smaller physical footprint than its normal, significantly larger store model.
During a quarterly earnings call earlier this year, the Journal said, Parneros told listeners and investors that Staples thinks it can achieve 95 percent of sales in an approximately 12,000-square-foot store roughly half the size of its regular stores by creating an online/in-store hybrid model.
"We have a lot of experience in operating small stores and urban stores, and have a high skill in dealing with phase management," he is quoted as saying in the article. "What we've done with the 12K is really transform the store experience completely. And so you can imagine that we've gone through a very thorough process to get the right SKUs."
Watch a short video of footage from the new omnichannel stores below:
Learn more about kiosks in retail.