Retailers are goign through strutural changes as many proven formats are out dated and "showromming" is impacting many. The massive pentration of smartphones are driving showroomers for comparing prices and features. Amazon has even given users of its mobile shopping app the ability to simplify price lookups on its site by letting them scan product bar codes using their smartphone cameras. So we end up having 1/ the Amazons of the world where they have full range of products at a super competitive price of 2/ Experience-based stores that people that offers more than making a purchase. They provide a very different kinds of retail relationships with different brands and it is Cirque du Soleil meets Nordstrom.
There are no shortage innovations happening in the word of retail design. Most aim to integrate online retail with the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ experience. Giant interactive screens, talking mannequins and RFID tags are bringing the virtual into ‘real’ retail spaces and tablet computers are turning up at pos’ from independent boutiques to multi-national chains.
Stores such as Tesco in the UK have introduced a ‘scan as you shop’ system that allows shoppers to bypass checkout lines; SK Telecom, a South Korean mobile tech company, are trialing a ‘smart cart’ a trolley complete with wi-fi enabled tablet computer that provides product information and collects data as people shop; Nordstrom, Harrods and Target are all trialing in-store navigation smart phone apps to give product location and stock information.
And for those who don’t like trying on clothes, there’s now a virtual answer: The AR Door prototype. UK high street store Top Shop introduced the virtual change room to shoppers in Moscow last year. Using Kinect motion sensor technology together with an Xbox console, the prototype allows shoppers to see how clothes will look without trying them on, via a full-length mirror/screen. There are also companies working on virtual ‘touch’ for users to ‘feel’ the texture of products they want to buy. While still in development stage, the innovation would address one of the main problems of shopping online. Shopping is as much a tactile experience as a visual one.
Mobile payment systems are also infiltrating retail spaces. US hardware giant, Home Depot introduced PayPal to almost 2,000 stores last year. Square, the mobile payment system, that streamlines point-of-sale payments, has recently partnered with Starbucks to implement a smart phone app allowing Starbucks customers to pay via QR code or NFC-tap.
It’s not just bricks and mortar retailers breaking down digital barriers in retail, online retailers, such as the online grocery store Peapod, are establishing a physical retail presence. Product images and QR codes line the walls of transit stops in the US, shoppers can simply scan items to order while they wait for their train.
In a creepy addition to the tech enabled retail experience, mannequins may now be watching you as you browse. Via built in cameras and facial recognition software mannequins are now able to collect data on your race, age, gender and shopping habits to assist retailers in their marketing strategies. While it’s not quite new, retailers have been using in store cameras to collect data for years, the addition of facial recognition is making it a simpler process. So watch out for those mannequins!