The shopping habits of consumers has changed significantly over the past 10 years and will continue to change over the next decade too. The use of smart phones and the radical increase of online stores has been an industry game changer for traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. With the ability to purchase at the buyer’s convenience in one click, secured payment methods and short delivery times has had many traditional brick-and-mortar stores fearful about their place in the retail industry. However, combining digital with the in-store experience is having huge effects on the future of retail. Here we look at some interesting game changers that many retailers are implementing to simplify the way we find and buy products in stores, revolutionising the shopping experience.
The Internet of Things
Almost 60% of the American population own a smartphone device, and out of those, 80% use it for purchases online. However, there is still a need for consumers to go to brick-and-mortar stores for reasons such as trying before you buy. Mobile connectivity changes shopping habits. Some people will use their phone in-store to check out product reviews, or share a picture of their outfit with friends to see if it suits them. Consequently, retailers are incorporating the Internet of Things to enhance the shopping experience. For example, consumers can download a store-specific app and based on their activities they will be sent notifications about relevant products or specific deals. Another example of using the Internet of Things in store is scanning a QR code and directly get information about that product, such as where it was made, features and also showing people who purchased this product other items also purchased. This has seen to lead to an increase in sales.
Robots and Artificial Intelligence
A major challenge for store owners is keeping shelves well stocked and having inventory in the right place. Now retailers such as Lowe’s are using robots to do this work. The device, by Fellow Robots, rolls through the aisles checking for misplaced items and empty shelf space. If it sees, for instance, that a store is running low on an item, it will alert employees to reorder inventory. By connecting to their inventory management system, this robot helps them save time and money, allowing employees to focus on more difficult and creative tasks. Robots can also answer shoppers’ questions and help them find what they’re looking for, creating a shopping experience like no other.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have opportunities to leverage the distinct benefits of traditional, in-person shopping. Retail winners will be those who are able to blend the digital world into their stores in a manner that delights customers, builds loyalty and generates brand value. The way in which data can be collected can directly impact marketing communications in a relevant way that supports a personalised and positive shopping experience.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.