The new era of retail is an exciting blend of physical and digital. Our retail experiences are being enriched by technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR). It’s amazing how much intelligence is out there!
In this blog post, we follow fictitious protagonist Simon on a trip to a retail store to buy a pair of trainers, and we explain the role of technology in this story. This story should highlight how technology is drastically reshaping retail and consumer habits. All the technology mentioned in this story is already out there for retailers to take advantage of.
Part 1: Virtual fitting
Simon follows a brand he likes on Snapchat. He was able to try on their latest trainers, the Sneaker 3000, from the comfort of his own home through augmented reality on the Snapchat app on his mobile.
As you can see from this video, brands like Adidas are already experimenting with this technology. The AR option lets you select a pair of shoes, which are then placed on the ground via the Snap camera and then can be virtually merged on to your feet. Cool right? Well, Simon thought so too.
He clicked through to the retail store where he logged in and added the item to his basket. Advances in 3D imaging are attracting more and more shoppers to buy online without seeing products first-hand in a physical store. Before paying for the trainers, Simon got distracted by his manager at work who seemed unimpressed that Simon was on Snapchat rather than participating in the meeting. The item was then left in his online shopping basket…
Part 2: Tailored store display
Simon stopped off at the mall on the way home from work. He ventured into a store after being drawn in by the store’s tailored digital display. Instead of a static mannequin showing the same outfit to everyone, there was a digital display that could detect Simon’s gender, age, and personal style, and then instantly promote a relevant video with tailored product recommendations.
Retail tech startups like Mystor-E are bringing the online advertising model into physical retail stores to improve conversion rates, with displays that change depending on who is standing in front of them.
This kind of targeted display technology uses cameras to capture the image, a quality network for connectivity, cloud computing to store and process the data, AI for analysis, and then a content delivery network and a smart device to deliver the content response. All in real-time!
Part 3: Robots in store
As Simon entered the store, the brand was able to recognize him through face recognition (or in more technical language, a Biometric Artificial Intelligence based application). He had previously opted in to this personalization service which required him to add a selfie to his online account – allowing for his face to become a recognizable object.
After Simon was recognized by the store’s camera, a computing analysis is done on Simon’s customer profile which discovered there was an item still remaining in his shopping basket (remember Part 1?). Adam, the store robot, gets a notification to remind Simon about checking out the trainers in his online basket.
Simon is then greeted by the Adam, who he still hasn’t got used to visually, but he has an Alexa at home, so it doesn’t feel that unnatural for him to interact with a voice assistant. Technology like chatbots and smart speakers not only make shopping easier, but they increase the efficiency of retailers and provide them with a wealth of data to improve their services.
The following conversation then takes place between Adam (robot) and Simon (man).
Adam: Hello Simon, thanks for visiting our store on Oxford Street in London.
Adam: I have a question for you…
Are you still interested in buying the Sneaker 3000 trainers you were looking at before?
Adam: Great! Please go to Aisle 10 to collect your item.
By the time Simon has wandered over to Aisle 10, the trainers in his size are already there waiting for him…
Part 4: Instant payment
Simon has grabbed his new pair of trainers and taken them to the self-service checkout. Simon is then able to pay for the item using his smartphone. Apple Pay has saved his credit card details in his mobile wallet, so mobile payments are the way forward for Simon along with many other consumers. According to Tech Crunch, 90% of smartphone users will have made a mobile payment by 2020.
Simon walks out of the store with his new trainers in hand and feels the vibration from his phone as the digital receipt comes in.
Retail is a dynamic industry that is quickly evolving due to a lot of investment in technology. To get ahead of the competition, retailers must be able to anticipate their customers’ needs and deliver a consistent, seamless journey across both physical and digital touchpoints.