Given the very important presence of a customer experience strongly focused on digital solutions, the need to adopt omnichannel strategies in large-scale retailing has led to the progressive disruption of the format of physical stores.
Although 2020 was the year of the boom in online shopping, the physical channel is not destined to disappear but it will inevitably need to reinvent itself in order to be framed into an omnichannel strategy and a business model increasingly focused on customer centricity. The customer does not visit the physical store solely for necessity, as could have happened before the crisis, but he does it to ensure an experience that only the physical store can provide. Added to this is the fact that at the time of entering a point of sale, a new aspect will now be on his list of priorities: safety. With the view to ensuring a shopping experience as safe as possible but at the same time offering a certain amount of pleasure, points of sale had to clean up their act with a strong digitalization of the in-store experience. The physical point of sale of large-scale retailers thus finds itself in having to be reinterpreted in terms of brand experience so that it is as exciting, immersive and engaging as possible, accompanied by digital infrastructure to amuse, entertain and provide a prompt and immediate response to all customer requests.
This process has proved successful through services such as Click & Collect, even in its variant with storage in lockers, or the so-called online selling in-store, namely the possibility of buying online at the point of sale.
In the near future we will see an increasing utilization of tools such as fast checkout, self-retail and a greater amount of interactivity, as well as services destined to greatly change the technological infrastructure of the store.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IN-STORE
Technology thus becomes the perfect ally to improve the in-store experience, even in its most advanced expressions, with the use of artificial intelligence. According to IDC https://www.uk.idc.com/about, in 2021 in Europe spending on investment in artificial intelligence projects will reach 12 billion dollars, with an expected double-digit growth until 2024, and among the markets that will make greater use of it there is the retail industry, especially as regards chatbots, price optimization systems and software that accompany the customer in the purchasing process.
Some practical examples of these trends are already present in many stores, such as electronic tags, a prime example of smart retail integrated into the point of sale. Each tag is accompanied by a unique identifying code, through which it is associated with a specific product on the shelf. The system reads and recognizes this ID code, and by interfacing with the store’s management system, it transmits in real time all the right information to the tag – from the price to current promotions, reordering, stock breakages, traceability and allergens, with the advantage of keeping track of the relevant KPIs for each shelf.
But that’s not all.
Large-scale retailing will increasingly be based on the implementation of devices that respond to an Internet of Thing logic. In fact, according to Grand View Research, the market for IoT solutions for retail is expected to grow with a CAGR of 21.5% and reach 94.44 billion dollars by 2025.
In practice this means installing sensors and smart and always connected devices that can be used to send information to smartphones, play audio and video on the store’s video walls according to the objects touched by the visitor, study all the movements of people to better organize the layout of the store and the positioning of products, and it would even be possible to detect the sentiment of people during their in-store experience to provide targeted promotions or revise the arrangement of the store itself. All this while indoor geolocation systems lead the customer to the product he is looking for and which he has obviously searched or selected with his smartphone.
The need to feel pampered even while shopping, is leading large-scale retail companies to implement machine learning technology through the use of artificial intelligence. It will be increasingly common to use virtual support platforms and chatbots capable of conducting an audio and text conversation to accompany customers in an optimal purchasing process and optimize the dialogue between shelf and warehouse, inventory, cash flows, as well as for structuring one-to-one marketing campaigns and strategies.