Touch screens, tables, panels provide interaction between the client and the store. Buyer can compare characteristics of several goods, as well as make a choice and payment without the participation of the salesperson. The screen at the entrance to the sales floor helps with navigation, and the screen in the fitting room allows you to order the right model, choose a size and color without waiting for a salesperson. The advantage of the technology for the customer is safety and convenience, and for the store – solving marketing tasks and reducing the workload of the staff.
App capabilities have already gone a long way from providing personalized discounts or recommendations based on previous purchases. For example, many apps use a voice support mode or a product search by photo.
Also out of the ordinary: in non-food retail, the client can use the app to order his size in advance to a particular outlet, and in the store he can call a salesperson to the sales floor or a consultant to the fitting room.
And the store uses phones and apps to collect data on customer behavior in order to use them to build marketing strategies, plan assortment changes, and possibly make changes to the furnishings of the sales floor.
Customer recognition systems
The modern store combines customer recognition with analysis of customer flow data. Although recognition annoys many, it’s too attractive a strategy for retailers to pass up. Most often, the function is implemented through a mobile application on a customer’s phone or directly through Bluetooth and NFC modules in a smartphone. Cameras using computer vision can be located on shelves or on the ceiling of the store.
The simplest and most intrusive option is to send a message to a person passing by that there is a store of that brand nearby. However, there are more useful functions. For example, the system can suggest a customer in the store to buy something according to his preferences or help find a product from the list.
The retailer’s special concern is to understand the mood of the customer. For example, computer vision helps “calculate” a person who stands in one place for a long time in front of the goods. Probably something is preventing him from making a choice. In this case, the system can direct a consultant to him. More complex algorithms try to recognize the expression of the buyer’s face in the checkout area. If by the end of the visit the customer is dissatisfied with something, the consultant comes to him and finds out what’s wrong. And the Uniqlo brand uses an AI system that reads customers’ nerve impulses during the display of advertisements and offers those products that caused a positive reaction.
The analysis of people’s behavior in the store allows for a variety of tasks. For example, retailers like Amazon Go recognize in this way the items chosen by a particular customer. But they can also be used to study in-store traffic – to identify bottlenecks in the hall, display errors or blind spots on the shelves.
With the help of augmented reality the customer can try on an item from the comfort of his own home or in the store without waiting in line to the fitting room. The technology is used for clothes, shoes, accessories and cosmetics. For a correct fit, the system must first scan the user’s face or figure, as well as the item being tried on. The option can be implemented as a screen (virtual mirror), virtual kiosk or mobile application. Brands such as H&M, Zara, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste and Burberry have already adopted the feature. (7)
It is possible to try on not only clothes, but also an orthopedic mattress or pillow, which also requires scanning the consumer’s figure. In addition to this, “trying on” services for future repairs or furniture are being developed – they are used by home improvement stores. The customer needs to take a picture of the interior; then a 3D model of the room is built based on the pictures, and the new furniture or other furnishings are “fitted” into the model.
With the pandemic of people trying to avoid unnecessary contact, this option has become especially in demand. With the app, a shopper can check in on his way to the store. He’ll get a number in the electronic queue and can wait outside or in his car for the right time. This way, he will be able to spend his wait time in a more comfortable environment and more easily maintain a social distance.
Eye-eyed monsters on wheels are thought to take jobs away from humans. In stores, they do perform functions that are usually assigned to specific workers. One of the uncomplicated tasks for robotization turned out to be merchandising. Robots take pictures of goods on the shelf, and then the AI determines whether everything is enough and whether everything is in its place.
One of the pioneers in the field is Walmart. Its robots check shelf occupancy and also work as cleaners. Another employment option for robots is “patrolling” the store: a mechanical worker can spot a mess like a broken juice bottle or advise a customer in different languages.
Specialized robots work in warehouses and order picking. The best example is Amazon’s almost fully automated warehouses, where people no longer go to collect goods, but only scan what the smart machines bring them. In a number of Zara stores, robots are involved in the order picking area. Upon entering the store, customers enter a pickup code, which triggers the robot’s movement through the warehouse. The machine finds the desired order and sends it to the hall through the pickup window.
Another profession that robots are taking over is courier. Automates already deliver orders made online to the house on their own.