The reality is that consumers’ profiles and their shopping habits have changed. This is exactly why the retail industry is undertaking its biggest transformation in decades. Their goal is to confront “empires” like Amazon and Alibaba, and the preferences of consumers who are more and more connected. In fact, in 2018 global online sales surpassed 2 trillion dollars (eMarketer) and in Spain, 58% of consumers now shop online at least once a month, and they are more demanding, disloyal, connected, and opinion generators searching for specialized and exclusive experiences and products.
Shops Reinvent Themselves
In the latest edition of Retail Forum 2018, Manel Romero, Director of Industry at everis, pointed out that augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and big data will be adopted as commodities in retail stores.
In the transformation process that retail is now going through, ultra-personalization, mobile commerce, and omni-channel experiences are key players. Technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, blockchain, and big data are now being deployed in retail. Here are some examples:
- Scanners in dressing rooms: the Spanish firm Mango is introducing a digital mirror in its dressing rooms. When an article of clothing is scanned, the mirror shows a model wearing the selected item, what colors and sizes are available, suggested accessories, and also lets the shopper request them from the store's staff right there using the screen.
- Intelligent shelving: NTT DATA and everis have developed an intelligent shelf that analyzes customer behavior and updates the stock in real time. Different heat maps show how customers interact with products on the shelf, or how many have approached it.
The shelving was presented recently at the biggest retail trade fair in the world, NRF 2020 . Of the approximately 18,000 people who passed by the stand, 883 people interacted with the product, and almost 200 filled up a virtual shopping cart. The heat map showed that almost all of the interactions happened on the top shelf. One curious fact is that rice was the most popular product on the shelf.
Intelligent shop windows: Inditex is not only incorporating touch screens to communicate with salespeople; but will also have intelligent shop windows, where customers can purchase online what they see in the window, even if the store is closed.
- The Dutch supermarket chain Albert Heijn has deployed apps to scan products using augmented reality which provide the user with additional information, such as personalized recommendations based on ingredients, nutritional information, recipes, etc.
- Apps like everis MyShopp, introduced in the Veritas chain, improve the consumer shopping experience, including identifying the customer when they enter the store, personalization with augmented reality, personalized notifications in real time according to customer tastes, virtual assistance, and payment by facial recognition.
- Facial recognition: Retailer KFC in Beijing, China uses this technology to make suggestions to customers according to their mood, age, or gender.
- Efficient payment: solutions like paying with a digital fingerprint introduced in the Cost Cutter supermarket chain. This solution using infrared technology scans fingerprints and links the biometric map of each customer with their credit card.
- The supermarket chain Lidl has launched Margot, a chatbot who is an expert in wines, to recommend the best option according to the customer's budget and food pairing.
- Store robots who greet customers, inform them about discounts or products, and greet regular customers by name through facial recognition. This has begun in the Russian retail chain Lenta.
Trends suggest that shopping in a physical store should provide something more, given the competition of online shopping. Therefore, retailers are beginning to roll out imaginative solutions to attract customers, who in many cases don’t buy for necessity, but to have an experience.
Some examples that confirm this trend are the appearance of popup stores, experiences with virtual reality, the return of smaller and more personalized spaces in city centers (like the new urban Ikea and Decathlon stores); and the appearance of new spaces like the thematic hotel/night club that Converse has opened, or the new Doc Martens store, where part of the space is dedicated to live music, both located in London.
The changing shopping experience for consumers has only just begun. Much remains to be seen and experienced, and there's no doubt that there’s a lot of technological effort being made to slow down shopping from our sofas.