Photo Credit: Jewish Press

It takes far less effort to shop online than to travel to a brick and mortar store, choose items, stand in line, and pay for them. Americans are changing their shopping habits and retail stores are feeling the pinch.

Stores like Walgreens, Gap, Target, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Dressbarn have already seen a combined 7,500 store closings in 2019. For comparison, that’s more than all store closings in 2018 – and Coresight Research, a research firm focusing on retail and technology, estimates that the number of store closings will climb to a whopping 12,000 by the end of this year!

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Brick and mortar stores are fighting back. In an attempt to lure Millennials and Gen Z customers, they’ve started merging technology with the in-store experience:

* Nordstrom is experimenting with “microstores.” These stores, called Nordstrom Local, don’t sell traditional merchandise like clothing, shoes, or accessories. Instead, consumers at these locations can access Nordstrom services like tailoring, manicures, style advice, and even cocktails. The point, of course, is to bolster the company’s online sales.

* Amazon Go enables customers to enter a store, choose items, and leave. There are no cash registers or check-out stands. Amazon bills shoppers’ credit cards as they exit the store and they receive a detailed receipt of their purchases on the Amazon app.

* Nike Plus Members scan the barcode of sneakers or clothing they want to try on using their app, and the items are sent directly to the dressing rooms of their flagship New York City store. Nike Plus Members can go straight to the fitting rooms, open the doors with their smartphones, and try on the items. Once they choose which items they want to purchase, they simply scan them at the instant checkout counters located throughout the store.

* Sephora is testing smart mirrors, which enable shoppers to virtually try on makeup using virtual reality tablets in stores.

* Reformation, a clothing brand, displays only one size of each item in its stores. Shoppers can use the tablets located throughout the store to request items they want to try on. The items are then sent directly to the fitting rooms. The best part? The fitting rooms have different lighting options, specifically designed for selfies, so shoppers can send pictures to their friends and family to hear their opinions on the clothing’s fit and style.

* Macy’s digital fragrance counters allow shoppers to pick a fragrance on a touch screen and learn more about it.

* Audi launched a virtual reality experience in its showrooms. Shoppers can design their dream car and then explore the interior and exterior in detail entirely through VR (virtual reality technology).

* Krogers uses “Scan, Bag, Go” technology. Shoppers can use their smartphone to scan items as they shop. When they are done shopping, they pay on their phones.

The number of stores that are now using robots is increasing. Robots do all kinds of work, from greeting and guiding customers to taking inventory, mopping floors, picking up garbage, and helping in the warehouse.

These are just some of the many examples of how the retail landscape is rapidly evolving. But is it too little too late? According to RetailMeNot, a website aimed at saving shoppers money by providing coupons and cash rebates, 85 percent of Americans shop in non-grocery brick and mortar stores at least once during a typical week.

But more and more retailers are discovering that online shopping and in-store shopping don’t have to be competitive. By merging both, they can create a more satisfying technology-infused shopping experience. Whether this development will stop the flow of brick and mortar store closings remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

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Bracha Halperin is a business consultant based in new York City. To comment on her Jewish Press-exclusive tech columns -- or to reach her for any other purpose -- e-mail her at brachahalperin@hotmail.com. You can also follow her on Instagram or Twitter at: @brachahalperin.