While no one can say for sure what mysteries are waiting in retail's future, one thing is certain — technology will be both plentiful and integral. Solution companies are gearing up with product pipelines that seek to create seamless experiences for the connected shopper.
But what is it that the connected shopper wants? Motorola Solutions thinks it may have figured out some of the puzzle.
The company recently rolled out its Connected Shopper portfolio, covering aspects such as mobile integration, indoor positioning, endless aisle kiosks and in-aisle product scanning via smartphones.
"We have taken the view that there is a common theme of connectivity in everything we do," said Tom Bianculli, senior director of the Emerging Business and Engineering office at Motorola. "Customers, sales associates ... even the store itself is getting smarter."
Bianculli said the Connected Shopper technology is designed to personalize in-store shopping — and much of that is done by utilizing the shopper's smartphone. The solution can enable a retailer's app to automatically connect a consumer's smartphone to a store's Wi-Fi network once the shopper opts-in and authorizes the application. From there, things start to get personal.
For example, if a shopper is in the store to purchase a specific item and searches for a lower price on the item in another store, the app, regardless if running, can send a notification to the shopper's phone with a price match based on that search.
In addition, shoppers who utilize the application in say, a grocery store, and enter the store with a shopping list compiled with the app — it would reorganize the list in a way that enables the shopper to pick up all of the items they need in each aisle the first time through.
"There's no reason why a brick-and-mortar shouldn't know as much about a consumer as an online retailer," Bianculli said. "If I take items out of my cart, abandon my cart ... I could shop and leave and no one knows. But by using the phone as the hub, we can provide the traditional online analytics — this is very exciting for retailers because they can interact, provide automatic upselling and cross-selling."
Another utilization of the shopper's smartphone is Motorola's in-aisle barcode scanning feature. The shopper uses a retailer's app to scan barcodes on items they plan to purchase and place in their cart. When ready to check out, the shopper touches a checkout button and the app generates a barcode that is scanned at a self-checkout station, where the purchase is completed.
As for security and loss prevention in providing such a service, Bianculli said it comes down to random customer audits and the customer's relationship with the store.
"Every nth basket is audited for compliance," he said. "You build up your credibility. What we are seeing with the mobile phone and people opting in, there's a lot of knowledge of who the person is."
The next Connected Shopper solution takes the form of an interactive kiosk that offers customers expanded access to a retailer's inventory, otherwise known as endless aisle.
Bernadette Ackerman, senior manager of product marketing at Motorola, said the Customer Concierge is a device that covers four specific areas: product search, voice and video communication, smartphone connection and digital signage.
"The Concierge takes all of those, marries them together and enables shoppers to have a more personal experience." said Ackerman. "Retailers are determining which ones they want to deploy at any time."
Ackerman said the goal is to launch the full-service concierge at next year's National Retail Federation show as well as a hardware solution that is fully customizable. And while some of the technologies in the Connected Shopper portfilio are commercially available, others are still being vetted or in the pipeline.
Looking ahead to the future, Bianculli sees retailers utilizing smart infrastructure, connectivity and maybe even abandoning the checkout all together.
"The goal with infrastructure is that we will be able to link goods with people, where loss prevention and people become the same thing," he said. "Grocery stores become your pantry, you get what you need and just walk out of the store and are automatically billed — and eventually, there becomes no 'point' in POS."
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Photo by backofthenapkin.