October 15, 2015, 12:22 PM EDT
5 Ways Technology is Revolutionizing the Way We Shop
Source: Business Insider
Once you enter a store, advanced technology may be at work in ways most shoppers might not even realize — through devices that tell retailers when your favorite items are running low and with apps that help you navigate the floor plan. Here are just a few of the cool technological advances starting to happen in brick-and-mortar stores today.
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Consider a customer who walks into a retail store in search of one item. If a customer has never been in that store before, he or she might wander aimlessly down the aisles, get frustrated, and leave without buying anything. With beacon technology, shoppers can download the retailer's app, opt into beacons, and then easily learn where that item is, as beacons broadcast signals to their mobile device.
"When brands stop marketing to customers in a general way and start treating them as individuals with specific preferences," explains Maya Mikhailov, chief marketing officer and cofounder of the mobile commerce platform GPShopper, "that personalization will make customers more loyal to brands."
In the future, beacons will be able to enhance the experience of loyal customers by, for example, notifying sales associates the moment you walk into your favorite store. "Say a shopper always goes to a store on Wednesdays, but today they go on a Thursday and their favorite sales associate is out," Mikhailov says. "A Bluetooth peer-to-peer experience might allow them to share their shopping list with a sales associate in real time, and now that sales associate can give informed suggestions."
To learn more about beacon technology, click here.
2. Smart shelves
Relying on humans to update pricing or restock items ends up being costly and time-consuming for businesses. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that out-of-stock shelves cost retailers 4% of their annual revenue. That's why major retailers like Whole Foods, Walgreens, and Lowe's have turned to smart-shelf technology to monitor inventory in real time.
With smart shelves, retailers and manufacturers can scan the content of a shelf using embedded sensors and alert store employees when inventory is running low or when a theft has been detected. Retailers can also change prices of products in real time, ensuring accurate pricing for customers and saving time for associates who were once required to monitor those shelves.
Some manufacturers are also hoping to use smart-shelf technology to increase sales of their products by automatically sending shipments to stores when products are running low. Consumers would never have to worry about their favorite products being temporarily out of stock, making it a win-win for customers and retailers.
3. Virtual reality
Another way retailers are meshing the digital world with the physical world is through experiences such as virtual changing rooms. In Japan, Toshiba developed a way for customers to virtually try on clothes using a digital changing booth. Shoppers simply stand in front of a 3D camera to get their bodies scanned and measured, and the measurements are uploaded to their phone. From there, customers can mix and match outfits, both in the store and from the comfort of their home, to decide which pairings look best with their measurements in mind. They can then go on to purchase items that are guaranteed to fit.
Customers at chains like Starbucks and Subway can use their apps to pay for purchases and receive special discounts and promotions. National retailers such as Walmart allow consumers to ditch newspaper inserts and instead check weekly deals and pricing from within the store's app. Customers can also see how much they saved by buying specific items at Walmart compared with the store's competitors.
5. Social showrooming
Customers can find popular pinned shoes and handbags throughout the store with a prominent Pinterest tag attached. In addition, Nordstrom created an in-store app that helps sales associates see the most popular items on Pinterest in real time so they can swap out inventory based on demand.
Bringing it all together:
Mobile tools, such as retail and loyalty applications, can also help to inform retailers of their customers' preferences and needs. This information allows retailers to create a customized in-store shopping experience while also catering to the demands of an increasingly digital age. For example, a mobile app could allow consumers to tag an item they see in a store and have it immediately placed in their online shopping cart. In this case, the consumer benefits from in-person customer service, as well as the convenience of purchasing at home.
In-store shopping is not going away, but it is getting an upgrade. Technology helps close the gap between in-store and online, making shopping more enjoyable for today's customer — and a happy customer is always good for retailers.