Touch screen kiosks and tablets are so yesterday! Retailers are now testing many new technologies to enhance customer experience in-store, improve customer service, take advantage of mobile consumers and promote the retailers omnichannel presence.
Some of the latest technology includes mobile tools and apps, robots, beacons, virtual reality and even wearable technology. There are other new potential retail technologies on the horizon as well.
Our news roundup today includes several “what if” technologies and real examples of retailers testing or actively using the latest digital and mobile technologies to get customers to open their wallets.
Who’s using digital technologies in-store?
First, we start with Happy Family’s virtual reality store shelves and how retailers can experiment with promotions and products. Lowe’s features a virtual “Holoroom” using virtual reality to help customers design kitchens and baths and choose products. When it comes to chatbots, Nikki Gilliland’s eConsultancy post looks at four interesting types of chatbot technology including Skyscanner (Facebook Messenger), Marsbot (Foursquare), Taco Bell’s Tacobot and the new Luka app. Sephora is using digital Beauty Workshop stations to choose just the right beauty products.
Indoor positioning technology adds convenience to retail shopping according to Sweden’s SenionLab whose StepInside technology lets mall operators and retailers send text and promotional notifications to individual customers who are in or nearby stores. Will that be Pepper the robot with your pizza? Pizza Hut is testing Softbank’s robot technology to take orders in some of its easier restaurants. To answer the important question “What’s for dinner tonight?”, Allrecipes and 58 Marc’s grocery stores in Ohio are using beacon technologies to help customers buy foods for dinner.
Coffee, champagne, browsing fashion lookbooks, interactive changing rooms and RFID chips to send info to digital mirrors, the Rebecca Minkoff store in Soho, New York has it and much more for an immersive customer experience. Likewise, the Primark retail store has a barrage of LCD screens and changing LED lights along with a party setting for special in-store events. Samsung 837 is the newly opened living lab, cultural experience, resource for brand customers and a marketing center for excellence all wrapped up in one NYC location.
The Future is Now
To answer those questions, Happy Family turned to virtual reality, creating four different scenarios to gather data from 800 shoppers. “There is no way, if we had not done this virtually, that we’d have been able to get these numbers,” Kankariya says.
While it may seem that Happy Family reached into the future, virtual and augmented reality are already transforming retail from store design to signage.
“It’s definitely one of the hottest technologies right now,” says David Evans, commercial director of Kantar Retail Virtual Reality. “It’s hot in the marketplace, but it’s not a fad. VR has been around for a long time, so it’s had time to mature. … It’s going to influence our lives at work, at home and at play.” Via nrf.com
Taking it to the customer
While most applications to date have been with back-end systems, there are early steps in taking virtual reality to the customer. Lowe’s worked with virtual and augmented reality firm Marxent Labs to develop a system to help customers virtually design kitchens and baths.
“Every single client comes to us with a slightly different use case but they all share one thing in common: The need to help customers visualize purchases in custom context,” says Beck Besecker, CEO of Marxent.
“In terms of bricks-and-mortar retail, the primary question being asked is, ‘Can we do more with less space and make it a dynamic experience?’” Via National Retail Federation
What are chatbots and why should marketers care?
With brands struggling to keep up with a multitude of platforms, chatbots will enable a more streamlined approach as well as access to increased amounts of data.
As the likes of Slack and Kik show, consumers are using messaging apps in different locations, contexts, and for varying reasons. Rather conveniently, a chatbot can cover all bases.
What’s more, as well as being a benefit for the user, increased personalization means that marketers will be able to connect and relate to the target audience like never before. Via econsultancy.com
Come and Go
Mall operators are beginning to use a new indoor location positioning system designed to make it easier for customers to quickly find shops and products.
The StepInside technology was developed by Swedish company SenionLab; the system is currently installed in malls in Europe and Australia. At press time, one of the four largest mall operators in the United States was conducting internal tests of the technology. The first full Bluetooth beacon installation was completed in November, and the mall operator is expected to announce plans to roll the system out to approximately 20 more locations by the end of this year.
Marcus Andersson, vice president of marketing for SenionLab, describes the technology as the indoor equivalent of GPS — a robust and comprehensive hardware-software system for indoor positioning of mobile devices. “It’s going to be easier for customers in malls to find restrooms, restaurants, shops and even their parked cars,” he says.
The system is supported by Bluetooth low-energy technology. Malls and individual retailers install beacons, which perpetually broadcast their unique ID to be picked up by nearby smartphones. The smartphone calculates its own position in the venue, a position that can be used to deliver location-based services. Via nrf.com
Sephora, Neiman Marcus Turn to In-Store Technology to Enhance the Retail Experience
Shoppers have come to expect clerks roaming the aisles with Apple iPad devices or other tablets — ready to check stock or let users complete purchases. Price-checking kiosks are common too. But the line between digital and physical shopping is rapidly blurring, as technology transforms retail stores that aim to combine the best of hands-on shopping with the speed and efficiency of the web.
The tech-savvy Sephora has been giving its stores a digital makeover over the past few years, and the Fragrance IQ station is just one of the high-end cosmetics retailer’s enhancements.
“Our Innovation Lab is constantly testing and perfecting new technology we think will be relevant for our clients,” says Bridget Dolan, vice president of the chain’s San Francisco-based lab. Via biztechmagazine.com
Robots employed to take orders and greet customers at Pizza Hut
Pepper—a humanoid robot with a sophisticated vision system designed to live with people and react to them on an emotional level in multiple languages—has been deployed by Pizza Hut restaurants in Asia to greet and interact with customers, as well as take food orders.
Developed by Aldebaran, which is part of the SoftBank Robotic Holdings Group, Pepper is designed to help people grow, enhance their life, facilitate relationships, and connect them with the outside world. One such example is when Pepper was deployed by European travel company Costa Cruises to greet cruisers, assist passengers, and help them navigate the ship.
The vision-guided robot’s head is equipped with four microphones, two HD RGB cameras (in the mouth and forehead) and a 3D camera behind the eyes. It also has a gyroscope in the torso and touch sensors in the head and heads. Pepper’s mobile base has two sonars, six lasers, three bumper sensors, and a gyro. Images are processed by shape recognition software capable of identifying faces and objects. Via vision-systems.com
Allrecipes Uses Beacon Technology To Offer An Enhanced Shopping Experience And Answer The Perpetual
Allrecipes, the world’s largest digital food brand with more than 1.3 billion visits annually, introduces in-store beacon triggered experiences in Marc’s stores to provide their shoppers with personalized meal recommendations through the Allrecipes Dinner Spinner app. In-store notifications are triggered on shoppers’ smartphones by Verifone, a world leader in payments and commerce solutions, and its beacons system that is powered by the Footmarks SmartConnect® proximity platform across all 58 Marc’s Stores in Ohio.
“As the grocery industry evolves, we’re seeing technology and retail converge in new and innovative ways,” said Stan Pavlovsky, Allrecipes President. “We understand the importance of using technology to craft in-store engagements that are personal to shoppers, stores and brands, and this partnership serves as a first step in providing timely, relevant meal solutions for busy home cooks as soon as they walk through the door.”
“Marc’s and our chain of stores are excited to be a part of this collaborative effort that brings together meal solutions, the grocery experience, and digital to the forefront of our customers’ shopping experience,” says Day Armelli, Marketing Director for Marc’s. “We anticipate this will open up additional doors that allow us to deliver greater value to our customers by helping them make the most out of their in-store shopping experience.” Via prnewswire.com
Designing “Digital Moments” Into the Retail Space
The Rebecca Minkoff store in Soho, New York allows customers to use mirrorlike screens on the store’s main floor to flip through the company’s lookbooks and order complimentary coffee and champagne. It also offers interactive fitting rooms, as does Polo Ralph Lauren, where RFID chips embedded within the clothes send information to the mirrors, which display size and color options, as well as recommendations. The Oak Labs–designed smart fitting room provides a more seamless shopping experience for the customer and offers the company valuable insight into what items are taken into the fitting rooms and which ones end up being purchased or left behind.
The goal of this, and similar projects, is to leverage technology for a more immersive shopping experience—a new way for consumers to engage with companies. And this kind of interactive retail is not restricted to the world of high fashion. Last November, Dublin-based fast-fashion retailer Primark announced its entrance into the U.S. market with a Gensler-designed flagship store in Pennsylvania’s King of Prussia Mall.
The store boasts a slew of technological bells and whistles, from a barrage of LCD screens and changing LED lights (including a party setting for special in-store events) to neon hanger chandeliers. Primark seeks to provide a platform for its mostly young and digitally savvy shoppers to share experiences and stories, and in the process has sped up the already breakneck pace of fashion trends through an almost real-time feed of shopping hauls and street-style inspiration from around the world.
“Our challenge was to design an integrated, cohesive space that did not feel like a sea of clothes,” reports Jessica Beck, senior associate and graphic designer at Gensler. “These digital moments throughout the store draw shoppers in, help them navigate, give them an opportunity to take a break and be entertained, and become an awesome backdrop for the digitally minded tween selfie.” Via metropolismag.com
Samsung 837 Opens NYC First-of-its-Kind Cultural Destination, Digital Playground and Marketing Center of Excellence
Samsung Electronics America, Inc. announced the opening of Samsung 837, a first-of-its kind cultural destination, digital playground and Marketing Center of Excellence, in the heart of the Meatpacking District of New York City.
Open to the general public, the living lab and digital playground featuring numerous installations and touchpoints comprise three floors and include, a one-of-kind digital screen, auditorium seating for performances and special events, a Gallery featuring curated content experiences, a broadcast studio, and much more. The state-of-the-art building is a creative expression of Samsung’s brand and will serve as home for the marketing center of excellence, executive briefing center and a new customer care center designed to offer one-on-one service to Samsung owners.
“We set out to build a marketing center of excellence,” said Gregory Lee, President and CEO of Samsung Electronics America. “We immediately thought of New York City, where the best marketing happens and where people have a finger on the pulse of culture. As a result, we have and will continue to attract top talent from around the world.” Via news.samsung.com
Digital is retail, retail is digital
If there’s one thing we know, it’s that innovation will distinguish the winners from the retail losers. The cost of technology, profitability and the need to integrate many channels into one channel are the biggest challenges of retail today and tomorrow as it looks for new ways to generate sales.
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