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How Connected Technology Breathes Life Into Brick-and-Mortar Retail

How Connected Technology Breathes Life Into Brick-and-Mortar Retail

Sharan Ahluwalia DZone Thursday, 07 June 2018

Want to combine online shopping with a real-time shopping experience? See how these brick-and-mortar stores are revolutionizing customer experience with new connected technology.

There are some things we love about brick-and-mortar retail outlets that online retail cannot beat. The ability of our senses to make decisions and touch, smell, and see products cannot be experienced during online shopping. However, the brick-and-mortar retail experience could be augmented with technology that we like about online retail too. 

Let’s take a look at how connected technology can breathe life into brick-and-mortar stores.

1. Connected Inventory Management

When you go to a store for something and the item on the shelf is out of stock, it can be disappointing. This can be a thing of the past with IoT shelf monitoring and restocking. The Levi’s-Intelcollaboration is an example of IoT shelf monitoring. By 2016, Levi’s installed Intel’s RFID sensors in stores to track clothing inventory through IoT based applications. Another way to go about this is through automation via self-stocking or inventory robots, similar to what Amazon is doing with Kiva Robots. Kiva Robots keep a count of how much stock remains on a shelf and automates re-ordering before a product runs out and ruins a customer's experience.

2. Personalized Recommendations

Clicking on an item and getting recommendations for similar or complementary products— this is a common feature on e-commerce websites.  The same page as your selected products will often offer alternative products and suggestions. Whereas, in brick-and-mortar stores, you are dependent on either store assistants to help you or your own willingness to scout aisles, in the hopes of finding your desired item.

The ease of recommended products and suggestions in a real-time environment would be a great addition to brick-and-mortar retail locations.

This can become a reality through interactive displays that recognize the selected product, rigger options, and display alternatives or other products that complement a particular item that the customer has selected. For instance, in Italy’s Co-op Supermarket of the Future, customers pick up a product, signal a motion sensor that recognizes it, and, then, shows additional product information on an interactive screen. Connected technologies such as this can be used to personalize shopper experience and recommend products within stores just as they would on an e-commerce website.

3. Smart Trial Rooms

When it comes to apparel, as much as you visualize, you cannot really try clothes on on e-commerce sites. However, in physical stores and dressing rooms, the queue sometimes destroys your willingness to even enter the trial room. Smart Trial rooms are almost eliminating that dilemma. Brands like GAP and Ralph Lauren have introduced interactive trial rooms, which help customers with item selection and recommendations, apart from helping them trying on clothes without going back to the shopping floor.

4. Self-Checkout Solutions

Online checkout and digital payment procedures are so evolved today that they rarely go beyond a minute or two. However, when it comes to the brick-and-mortar stores, endless lines can ruin the shopping experience. This is also changing with self-checkout technology. Amazon Go is a great example where self-checkout has been implemented, enabling smart products, sensors, and RFID tags. Another is the Rebecca Minkoff and Queuehop Collaboration. By bringing QueueHop’s self-checkout technology to their retail stores, the brand is giving a digital experience to customers by allowing them to be in control of their physical shopping experience.

5. Connected Engagement and Shopping Experience

Online Stores always prompt an action, “ready to make payment”, “apply a coupon”, “ready to check out." One can’t help but feel that the brick-and-mortar experience could use some of that. Add to that a lack of in-store staff or consumer information in general. While interactive screens, like the one at Co-op Supermarket, are capable of displaying all information related to CPGs such as nutrition, certifications, and sustainability information, like zero waste or organically manufactured, other consumer products can find this application of smart products quite useful in brick-and-mortar stores. For instance, the interactive mirror in the Rebecca Minkoff fitting room offers customers a prompt to enter their phone number in order to save their personalized customer profile and gives recommendations based on the current and past fittings as they shop and make the customer experience more engaging.

6. Retail Store Environment Optimization

IoT based technology can gather store-data on the cloud in order to provide the same level of analytics available in an e-commerce environment to executives and employees. Understanding the behavior of customers, the movement of smart products through a store, and purchase trends combined with an analysis of this data can come in handy when reducing costs and improving store efficiency and shopper experience.

We are slowly undergoing a retail shift that combines the best of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar stores. These shifts are being catalyzed by connected technology that allows brands to combine the best of both online and offline retail. Such product information-driven commerce, when augmented with technology, has great potential to further blur the lines between the physical and digital.