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Retail Apocalypse: How These Tech Solutions are Changing the Game in the Fight Against eCommerce

As consumers get more accustomed to online shopping in a digital world, footfall suffers. According to consultant Retail Next store traffic recently fell 11.4% year over year. One of the main obstacles that brick and mortar retailers face today is that consumers tend to stay home and shop. The challenge they have is getting shoppers back into stores. One of the ways they’re rising to this challenge is by bringing the digital experience from the web into the physical store.

If done right, the brick and mortar store still has a significant role to play. The retailers and tech companies creating new in-store tools and software are at the forefront of innovation and are hoping to make the pain points of brick and mortar stores a thing of the past. Could this be the beginning of the end for long checkout lines, empty shelves, and frustrated customers? From smart mirrors to helpful apps, here are some of our favorite emerging retail tech solutions.

Smart Mirrors

Fitting rooms are an inescapable part of shopping, but consumers despise them. A 2016 survey by Body Labs found almost half of customers “hate” trying on clothes in a fitting room. Yet shoppers who try on clothes in store are almost several times more likely to purchase an item than those who just browse clothing on the sales floor, according to Alert Tech.

Memory Mirror aims to solve this problem. The mirror is a camera and screen that records a short video to provide a 360-degree view of how a clothing looks. It also provides a side-by-side comparison of customers in two different items and even offers the option to adjust the colors without having to change the clothes. Need an outside opinion? The solution also lets shoppers send the clips to friends through social media to ask which they think is best.

Connecting the Consumer

Messaging services such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have become a new touch point for shoppers in recent years. With billions of users already and more being added every year, retailers can’t afford to ignore these platforms as a means of engaging with consumers. In 2016, Facebook opened Messenger to brands, which unleashed chatbot for major brands such as Starbucks and Whole Foods. Sephora, lets you book appointments with a beauty specialist at the store and get help with purchasing decisions. Whole Foods’ messenger chatbot, meanwhile, offers recipe advice.

ServiceDock, an innovative tech solution designed specifically for multi-unit retailers allows stores to engage in real-time with customers via services such as Facebook Messenger. The platform is seen as a real gamechanger for brick and mortar businesses as the messaging technology allows businesses to retain customers by providing live customer insights before they even leave the premises. Businesses can then use these insights to rank all their locations and easily see which stores are ranked the worst and the reasons why.

No More Queues

In the United States consumers spend over 100 hours per year queueing. Retailers really took notice of the possibilities of checkout-less stores when Amazon began using them recently. The Amazon Go grocery store enables shoppers to enter by scanning a code on their app, pick up what they want, and then leave without having to waste their time queuing in a checkout line. The app’s sensors, computer vision, and deep learning track the items and automatically bill the shopper.

What’s even more convenient than Amazon Go’s app-based checkouts? How about a system where no smartphone or app is required? Smart trolleys fitted with image recognition, such as that developed by Brooklyn start-up Caper, allow consumers to grab what they need from the supermarket and leave without scanning bar codes.

The real value in systems such as this lies in the fact that it means retailers can use self-checkout to reallocate their existing staff to make brick-and-mortar more of a high-touch experience. This therefore provides them with a better point of differentiation over online only stores.

Your Products Always in Stock

How annoying is it when you go to a store and they don’t have what you want in stock? Walmart recently announced that it’s using shelf-scanning robots in 50 of its U.S. stores to replenish inventory faster. RevCascade also seeks to tackle this problem through drop shipments from wholesalers to consumers. What that means is — let’s say you go to a store and the item you want is out of stock. In store sales staff show you a tablet that displays what you’re looking for.  It appears to be the store’s inventory at a different location, but it’s really the stock of the retailer’s wholesale supplier.

You can purchase it in real-time on the tablet and the wholesaler instantly ships it directly to your address. The consumer is never aware they purchased the item from the store’s wholesale supplier, as far as they are concerned, it was purchased from the inventory of the store at another location.

Display Solutions & Augmented Realities

Converge Retail is a brand that wants to create an immersive in-store experience by introducing features normally only found online. It does this through the creation of kinetic retail displays that recognize customers as they approach, personalizes retail experiences and facilitates seamless transactions.

Augmented reality is another avenue being pursued by retailers. Stores like IKEA which stock bulkier goods such as furniture face many challenges. How can consumers know how a piece of furniture will look in their homes? For these businesses the answer is AR apps that enable customers to get a visual representation of how an item would look before they make a purchase. Apple is a big enabler of such technology. IKEA’s app uses ARKit, Apple’s framework for creating AR experiences.

Conclusion

We’re living in an era where people expect extreme convenience in every area of their lives. This new blend of retail tech provides a massive opportunity for brick and mortar retailers to not only compete with online stores but to provide an unmatched experience. In order to compete with eCommerce, businesses will need to engage customers in new ways by blending offline, online and mobile solutions. Through the implementation of the latest in retail technology from AI to Apps, brick-and-mortar retailers can really leverage their physical presence and turn the tables on their online competitors.

 

Contributed by Shay Fleming, a Marketing Executive for ServiceDock, a tech solution helping brick and mortar chains engage with customers and drive footfall. He is passionate about all things marketing and when he is not keeping up to date on all the latest growth hacks, he spends his time researching the most innovative customer experience solutions on the market. More information and his companies blog can be found at https://blog.servicedock.com/. 


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