VM LIVE Explores Changes in ‘Smart Retail’ Landscape

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LAS VEGAS—Attendees at Vision Monday’s VM LIVE “Retail Smart” event at last month’s Vision Expo learned how innovative retailers and vision care professionals are erasing boundaries between discovery, choice and purchase. A top retail trend analyst, an expert in new payment technologies and two entrepreneurial optometrists spoke about the way they use smartphones, tablets, apps, modern in-store displays, and a new range of in-office and online systems to create a fluid, frictionless experience for shoppers, both online and in-store.

Vision Monday senior vice president and editorial director Marge Axelrad led off with an overview of current retail shopping trends. Then Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, a noted retail trend observer, offered her analysis of how technology is reshaping the shopping experience. Reyhle, the founder and publisher of RetailMinded.com, a website recognized worldwide for its insightful retail coverage, pointed to the growing influence that social media exerts on the shopping experience. She advised the retailers in the audience to give customers “an ‘Instaworthy’ experience.”

Reyhle noted that consumers do considerable online research before entering a store. The top three online research influences are the retailer’s website, search engines and the manufacturer’s website, according to Reyhle. She said that one out of three shoppers do not want to talk with store staff, preferring to get product information through digital signage and other means, such as texting, websites, chats, messaging and online reviews.

“Some 80 percent of customers will reference their phone while in a store,” said Reyhle, adding that four out of five customers use their phone as part of their shopping journey. “Mobile phones, in many ways, are the eyes of your consumer,” she observed.

The ability to collect and analyze customer data obtained through point of sale systems, email marketing, social media, Google Analytics and customer/patient management systems is a key benefit of technology, Reyhle said. “Rumor has it retail is dying, but the truth is that retail has changed, and continues to change,” she observed. “You must embrace the realities of consumers, including what drives customers to make purchases.”

The next speaker, Sih Lee, SVP payments technology, new business and innovation for Synchrony Financial, spoke about how the revolution in payment trends is changing the consumer’s shopping expectations and experience.

Lee urged attendees to “get more out of your data. Extract insights and knowledge for better decisions. Know the customer’s intent and capture them at the right moment.”

He advised retailers and practitioners to “combine an integrated platform consisting of digital commerce, payments, social media, video streaming and search, and the use of customer insight to remove friction throughout the journey.”

As Lee pointed out, “Different commerce journeys and experiences can coexist.”

The special session also examined how new digital technology is transforming the patient and customer experience in the eyecare practice. Veteran optometrist Dave Ziegler of Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare described his experience in modernizing his practice in New Berlin, Wis. with digital technology and innovative store design. Dr. Ziegler explained how he recently reconceived the practice using a range of new digital technologies and featured areas, as well as the practice’s website communications to patients, all underscoring their “experience” for both eyecare and eyewear.

“Give consumers a compelling reason to choose your office for their eyewear needs by differentiating the patient experience,” Ziegler said.

Another experienced optometrist, Carole Burns, OD, FCOVD, spoke about how she has brought “outside the box” thinking to her practice, Professional VisionCare’s newest Ohio location. As an example, she said patients arriving at the practice receive a “treasure map” that helps them locate various frame collections that are hidden in drawers in the office, rather than displayed on frame boards or shelves. She said first-time visitors often mistake the practice for a salon rather than an optometric practice.

CareCredit was the Premier Sponsor of VM LIVE; Healthy Eyes Advantage was the Silver Sponsor.