Technology is helping to connect people in retail spaces. Retailers are embedding the capabilities of the web, smartphones, and social media into core functions such as workforce management, store operations, merchandising, and marketing. These features provide customers with a more personal shopping experience and change the face of the retail interaction.
Portable Tech for Informed Staff
Mobile POS frees floor space for other purposes and converts associates from cashiers to sales assistants who provide new levels of customer service. Associates with deep product information and real-time inventory information at their fingertips can provide better service to customers.
• Verizon has outfitted several hundred retail centers with tablets to ensure a more engaging and smooth in-store experience.
• Taking a cue from Apple, BMWis introducing product “Geniuses” to their stores as part of an overhaul of their retail experience. This new breed of BMW employee will utilize in-depth product knowledge and iPads packed with demo videos to help customers better utilize and configure their car’s features.
A Better Back End
Retailers are using mobile devices and in-store kiosks to close the feedback loop between the sales floor and the warehouse. These services let staff order items currently out of stock, and the data generated can be repurposed to assess future inventory management. The services also function as an educational tool for employees wanting to learn more about products and the company.
• Starbucks combined gamification and sustainability for a 30-day energy competition among 10 of its coffee shops. The goal of this competition was to promote employee behavior change through real-time energy usage information, employee engagement, and conservation strategies. The stores used Lucid’s Building Dashboard platform for the pilot project in order to test and document measurable energy savings in retail locations. Each store had a tablet behind the counter displaying its electricity use throughout the day, with energy data from smart meters. The program made more employees more environmentally aware and gave Starbucks a great story to tell consumers.
• Nokia Mobile Finder is a global retail platform that empowers customers and staff to browse, compare, and customize Nokia phones, accessories, and apps.
Digital Tools Streamline Offline Visits
Retailers are providing seamless services that expedite and improve the shopping experience by using in-store tools that combine the efficiency of shopping online with the assurance of buying in person. And digitally enhanced POS features can bring even deeper insights into products.
• Mercedes-Benz has equipped US dealers with iPads to collect customer information while customers are still seated in their cars.
• Perch is an interactive display technology designed for use in retail spaces. It uses projection and motion sensors to turn any table surface into a dynamic, hands-on interactive display. Perch encourages shoppers to touch and pick up products, and rewards them for doing so with relevant product information and brand-specific media. It also feeds behavioral analytics back to the retailers so they can make tweaks to optimize the display system.
• Sonos worked with R/GA to create an app for interactive retail displays installed in 400 Best Buy locations. The displays help consumers learn more about the Sonos wireless audio products and even demo the Sonos experience itself by controlling sound coming from the components on the fixture.
Face-to-Face Video for the Finer Details
Skype, Google+ Hangouts, and Apple’s FaceTime are all being used by brands to communicate with consumers and offer online assistance, helping bring the sincerity of face-to-face communications into the digital age.
• ASOS offered customers 15-minute style sessions with a team of style advisers via Skype.
• Appleis bringing its legendary “Genius Bar” online with a new feature in its online store that allows customers to connect with trained specialists through phone calls, online chats, and guided tours. The customer can view a video feed of the representative, who will walk through the tutorial or setup, showing each step of the process. The customer can ask questions and the rep can show the steps on his own device so the customer can follow along on hers.