The Digitization of Brick-and-Mortar: Retail and Technology

retail and technology

Transformative technologies are shaping the world around us, primarily for the better. Just consider conventional retail and commerce channels, for example. Customers now get to take advantage of a vast selection of convenience options that were never available in the past. You can buy products online and have them shipped — for free — to a local store. You can also leverage cross-platform experiences, where your online shopping habits and preferences are carried over to brick-and-mortar.

These kind of new and innovative experiences are only possible with modern technologies. That includes IoT or the Internet of Things, connected devices, big data and analytics, machine learning, and even mobile-friendly apps or services.

What are some real-world examples of the most innovative ways businesses are putting modern technology to use? Let’s explore further.

Digital Shelving and Signage

Ever see a product on store shelves you’d like to know more about? What about looking up coupons just before you add something to your physical grocery cart?

Major grocer Kroger is rolling out a brand new digital shelving and product information technology called Kroger Edge. The tech will be available in nearly 200 stores by the end of 2018.

What does it do? You can see pricing or nutrition information on any products, look up coupons or promotional offers or even watch video ads. Instead of delivering this information to your mobile device, it displays the content directly below the product shelves. There’s a small, digital banner section below each physical shelf that displays content.

The system also syncs up with personal information to provide a unique experience to customers. For example, it may highlight items on your shopping list so you can find them easier. If you’re interested in gluten-free products, you can also find these much easier — even ones that don’t have it written clearly on the label.

Contactless Shopping

Imagine walking into a convenience or grocery store, selecting the items you want and then walking right out the door, seamlessly with no interruptions. The digital system will automatically identify what items you selected, charge the appropriate payment account, and email you the receipt.

This is exactly what many retailers — including Amazon and Wal-Mart — are currently developing in select regions. Amazon’s service is called Amazon Go, and the affected store has absolutely no checkout counters. All the processing is done digitally, via mobile or contactless NFC tags. Pretty cool, no?

Location-Based Engagements

Thanks to geo-nav beacons, retailers can also deliver highly-personalized and contextually relevant experiences, in person. Imagine perusing the aisles of a large department store, for instance, when suddenly an alert on your phone goes off. It’s the store’s mobile app delivering you a custom promotion for a nearby product.

This same technology can also be used for indoor mapping or customer support. Target, for instance, now offers their customers an indoor map of each store using beacons. The information is displayed through the brand’s mobile app, and even updates user information in real-time. At any moment you can pop open the app and see exactly where you are inside the store. This not only helps you get your bearings but find various departments or even products.

AR or VR Experiences

Through augmented or virtual reality you can experience digital content in more immersive settings. VR, allows you to delve into the digital world through a wholly immersive audible and visual experience. AR, on the other hand, brings the digital content into the real world.

A great example of this technology leveraged by a brand can be seen in IKEA’s Place app. With the app, customers can take life-like models of the company’s furniture and products and overlay them in the surrounding environment. You could see what a certain couch or table is going to look like in your living room, and whether or not it will fit. But the allure is that you can do it without ever entering the store or leaving your current location, including your home.

This is still a great way to boost sales in retail, especially for big-ticket items like furniture and home decor.

Welcome to the Future

When all is said and done, these technologies are being deployed here and now. This is the future of business, retail, and the modern customer experience. Are you ready?

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Nathan P. Sykes

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