The "digital age" of retail therapy: where millions of shopping options are just a mouse click away. Over the past decade, we have witnessed (and most likely participated in) the steady rise of online shopping. Think about it.. When was the last time you went into Chapters to judge a book by its cover? Can you remember the last time you bought a CD from HMV? Neither can we.

Even with online shopping so readily available, crowds still flock to shopping centres on a daily basis. The Toronto Eaton Centre boasts a traffic rate of 1 million weekly visitors, proving that people still crave aspects of the face-to-face retail experience. With that said, store owners are having to alter their retail approach in order to keep customer traffic coming through their store on foot, as well as online.

Here are a few ways that modern technology is transforming the retail experience:

  1. Empowering Consumers

    Thanks to the good ol' Internet, consumers now have access to more information than ever before. And with the increasing number of wireless devices currently in existence, they can access it all from the palm of their hand. They now take it upon themselves to figure out what they want, when they want it, how their peers feel about it and where to get it for the best possible price. With an infinite number of websites, apps and social media platforms at their fingertips - it's obvious that modern technology has helped to create a qualified and confident consumer.

    Businesses who wish to succeed in the retail game should stay up-to-date with their social media platforms and company websites, ensuring that customers are equipped with accurate business information, honest reviews and transparent price comparisons. Some retailers go as far as barcode scanning apps, which provides shoppers with a way to learn more about a product while they're in-store.

    The days of pitching the benefits of your product are long gone. Technology has empowered people to take their purchase decisions into their own hands and seek out the product or service that best fit their needs. They no longer rely heavily on retailers to help them make decisions, only to guide them through the process once a decision has been made. Businesses should strive towards making the retail experience as seamless as possible for the digital age's empowered consumers.

  2. Digitizing Loyalty Programs

    The concept of customer loyalty has been around forever and the idea is pretty straightforward: reward those who shop with you often and they will remain loyal. Thanks to modern technology, retailers are now stepping up their game and investing in digital rewards programs, eliminating the traditional cards that take up space in your wallet and replacing them with smartphone apps and mobile payment options. This new approach combines a customer's gift cards, rewards points and balance tracking into an easily accessible digital account. A great example of this is Starbucks Rewards, and the perks aren't only for the customers. Digital loyalty programs like this can help retailers to spot trends, track customer buying behaviours and boost customers engagement all while improving the loyalty experience. Businesses need to keep up with the increasing role technology plays in retail, and digital loyalty programs are just one way of staying current.

  3. Location Based Deals

    Ever heard of the term "Beacon"? Well get familiar, because they are the newest location based marketing tool in the retail game. By using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and obtaining customer consent, beacons have the ability to send offers and relevant content directly to a shoppers smartphone based on where they are located in the store.

    For example, the Hudson's Bay Company recently enabled beacons with their HBC Gift Registry app in ten stores. Their goal was to enhance the in-store experience and connect with customers through their most popular accessories - their smartphones. Beacons were placed throughout the stores so that when a smartphone loaded with the HBC Gift Registry app stopped near a certain display, a nearby beacon would automatically ping them with information and offers associated with the display. This enabled them to track customers movements within the store, analyze certain behaviours and then actively send off targeted messages, customizing their shoppers' experience.

    The Hudson's Bay is an early adopter in this area, but it's important for all retailers to take advantage of the positive impacts that mobile devices can have on retail.

  4. Convenient Payment Methods

    Thanks to mobile and cloud-based Point of Sale (POS) systems, the traditional payment process is in the midst of a huge transformation. Imagine during the Christmas retail rush, the store lineup is out the door, when a sales associate approaches you with a tablet, checks you out quickly and sends off a digital receipt to your personal email address. Imagine staff having immediate, portable access to inventory and product updates, conveniently saving the time of both customer and employee.

    This is the kind of service that is slowly becoming the norm in larger stores and retail chains, but that's not to say there aren't alternatives for independent mom and pop shops. A solution for smaller businesses are accessories like the Square Reader, a credit card reader that plugs into the standard headset jack of a smartphone or tablet.

    No matter if you are a small chain or a superstore, mobile and cloud-based technology eliminates long lines and wait times, making customers feel more appreciated. Plus... it instantly elevates a business' cool factor.

  5. In-Store Customer Connections

    Retailers are finally realizing how important it is to embrace and encourage the digital age. It's no secret that people enjoy being connected, so some retailers have made the effort to keep their customers connected while in-store. Providing shoppers with free Wi-Fi is an opportunity to enhance their experience and prove appreciation. Whether they are connecting with their social media accounts our further researching products, free Wi-Fi is a convenient way to get customers to spend more time in a retail space. Live TV programming and music can gain similar results (see our blog on 3 Ways TV Can Grow Your Business. These media outlets draw customers in, make them feel appreciated, improve their mood and ultimately create a positive connection with the brand.

The way people now experience retail has been widely shaped by today's digital age. Have you noticed any new technologies that have changed the way you shop? Join the discussion on Twitter, Facebook or Google Plus!