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Smart Retail Solutions That Change Ecommerce (Updated)

A world in which nearly everybody now carries around a smart device – i.e. the smartphone – is what has enabled this revolution in retail. Read on if you want to find out how smart retail can take ecommerce to the next level.

Smart retail is a term used to describe a set of smart technologies that are designed to give the consumer a greater, faster, safer and smarter experience when shopping. A world in which nearly everybody now carries around a smart device – i.e. the smartphone – is what has enabled this revolution in retail. It can be used to house online stores, as a catalog and directory for ‘real’ stores, and now increasingly as a direct means of payment for goods and services.

I’m sure that retailers that don’t use smart technologies in the next few years will lose market share. In the Dmarts business we see how more and more customers use their smartphones to buy groceries, and when you offer a great experience with fast delivery, they will certainly repeat it. 

Also, by having information on what a customer is buying regularly, you can predict what they are going to need and when, creating a great opportunity for targeted marketing.  

Lorenzo Abbatemarco, Dmart Ops Senior Regional Manager PedidosYa/Delivery Hero

The Internet Of Things

Everything around us is becoming increasingly interconnected through technology. Sensors (such as iBeacons – see below) can be placed onto almost anything, and can connect any number of devices together in some very powerful and innovative ways.

If you’ve been shopping around for car insurance recently, then you may be aware of such a thing as Black Box Insurance. This is where sensors are placed in cars to allow insurance companies to link policy premiums to actual data on where and how well the car is being driven. In hospitals, there are even sensors that are being placed in teddy bears to monitor the health of sick children in discreet and non-threatening ways.

What if your car was guarded by a small sensor?

Man holding keys with house graphics around and dark background

But this is only scratching the surface of what is being made possible by the Internet Of Things. According to McKinsey, these disruptive technologies are forecast to have a $6.2 trillion effect on the economy by 2025. And one of the key industries that this will impact will be retail.

Smart retail is something that the world is now waking up to. In-store mobile marketing is becoming increasingly more sophisticated, and is being used more-and-more by retailers around the globe.

If you haven’t moved your store into the exciting new world of smart retail already, then perhaps now is the time to start considering how you can implement the technologies to make it happen – and it isn’t as hard nor even as expensive as you might think. There are, essentially, four elements to smart retail – ecommerce, beacons, smartphones and smart point of sale (POS).

Let’s take a look at these four things individually and consider how you might implement them into your business to give your customers the smart retailing experience that will make them come back again and again.

For me, being biased, the answer is of course IoT, both passive (RFID) and active (beacons). As a company that offers both, we see how it is changing the market. Cases like Zara, Decathlon or LPP/Reserved show how stock and inventory accuracy fuelled by RFID can help drive ecommerce sales - both BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up in Store), shipping directly to customers, or just simply keeping inventory.  

Shops become small DCs for B2C, which allows for faster deliveries and finalizing the last mile. With beacons you get a more direct and automated communication line with the customer, so you get more direct results (if they are in range).  

Jakub Kownacki, Chief Technology Officer, ISS RFID

Ecommerce

It’s not enough to just have a shop on the high street – you need to be online as well. And, although it’s possible in theory to create a smart shopping experience for your in-store customers without also selling your goods online, to really make the most out of your efforts, then your best bet is to set up an online storefront. Thankfully, this couldn’t be simpler.

Spree Commerce is an open-source Ruby on Rails based ecommerce platform that allows you to get an e-shop up and running quickly, efficiently and customized to your requirements. You can start building your shop right away, in fact. Spree’s BSD licence means that no matter the size of your business, you can start using Spree immediately for commercial purposes without having to pay a licence fee.

Spree is also one of the easiest and most reliable frameworks used today by developers. Based on Ruby on Rails, it is favored all over the web because of its simplicity and high quality. You can either choose from a number of high functioning and high quality themes to build your store, or, you can start completely from scratch with a custom-built e-shop to meet your exact requirements.

Either way, when thinking about creating a smart retail experience for your customers, it’s on your online store where you’ll be showcasing your products in all their glory. Full product descriptions, lots of images with the products being used in context, and perhaps even some promotional video shorts is what you want.

Here is where your customers will be directed when they come into your shop and start browsing your shelves. How will this happen? You will strategically insert beacons into your store. What are beacons? Keep reading to find out.

Smart retail solutions, especially for brick and mortar stores, are necessary nowadays. They are responsible for creating positive customer experiences, which we measure by the average value of sales. In my opinion, queues are the most important part of the 'in-store customer journey' (buying path/sales funnel) and we should watch carefully how much not data-driven queue management costs us. We can reduce the waiting time for service by using queue analytics based on AI solutions or by expanding self-checkout options. My favorite of the solutions presented in this article is The 'Apple Store Experience'. 

Piotr Szymański, Sales Manager - Cloud & AI, SOLWIT

iBeacons

iBeacons are small smart technology devices that can be attached to anything, anywhere. When a customer comes in close proximity to them, they broadcast tiny radio signals, which a user’s smartphone can receive and interpret. If you were selling digital cameras on one of your shelves, for instance, you could stick an iBeacon underneath, and, when a customer comes nearby, a notification will be automatically sent to that person’s smartphone. If clicked, the user will be directed right to your online store where the product specifications, pictures and pricing can all be displayed.

The great thing about iBeacons is that they create additional value for shoppers while they are in your store. And people are already turning to their smartphones to help them with their shopping experiences. A recent survey commissioned by Google found that more than 66% of smartphone users are already using their phones to help them shop and make purchasing decisions when in a physical, bricks and mortar, store.

iBeacons act like digital signs, and the power of these is that they can deliver the right message, at the right time, in the right place, to the right person. They are true innovations to the retail experience, and something that every smart retailer should have in their arsenal.

After the initial hype beacons are now finding their truly great use cases. You can use them for in-store navigation, promotion notifications (both in and outside the store), or even a faster checkout experience. Beacons can also react to temperature, humidity, or movement - so your customer can get additional info about a product simply by moving it. 

By placing beacons outside your store you can reach out to customers in a whole new context e.g. an outdoor game or some kind of event. The multiplicity of use cases and the direct connection to our smartphones makes beacons a great tool to make the shopping experience faster and more personalized.

Krzysztof Heyda, Digital Product Owner, Żabka Polska  

Smartphones and Apps

For the iBeacons to work, then the smart retailer needs at least one if not a suite of smart apps that consumers can download onto their smartphones. These are already being successfully used by pioneering retailers such as Timberland, Alex and Ani and Kenneth Cole. When customers walk into these stores, the beacons immediately deliver a push notification with a personalized greeting and an exclusive offer.

Group of people working with laptops, tablet and smartphones together and making financial report

 

Why not do a shopping haul by a cup of coffee, with just a smartphone in your hand?

According to GIGAOM,

“Over 90 percent of surveyed shoppers who visited Kenneth Cole, Timberland and Alex and Ani in New York and Boston during their pilots of this technology said they would be highly likely or likely to use an in-store mobile experience again.

These retailers reported a 75 percent open rate for in-store personalized offers and an impressive 35 percent conversion rate, meaning a substantial amount of shoppers not only appreciated the personalized offers but also acted on them.”

Smart retailing is all about smart devices and smart technology – by connecting smartphone to in-store beacons the whole shopping experience for your customers can suddenly explode into something truly sensational, smart, and very, very cool indeed.

We thought that “ecommerce”, “iBeacons”, and “smart phones & apps'' have really changed commerce. The question remains, however, how can retailers integrate all these elements seamlessly together with offline physical stores to give our customers an enjoyable immersive retail experience, to encourage purchases online and/or offline, and ideally all this without limitations. 

Kinofy has partnered with the Singapore government’s Trade Agency, Enterprise Singapore, to bring 20 Singapore brands to China in an Instagrammable experiential brand tour across three cities in China to do outreach and acquire followers for participating in the companies’ WeChat shops.

The JaaJaaGo! project incorporates social eCommerce, O2O retail, O2O live streaming, O2O gamification, KOL (Key Opinion Leaders) marketing, and KOC (Key Opinion Converters) conversion to help build brands’ followers and drive brands’ online retail business in China. 

Lawrence LIM, Chief Growth Officer, KINOFY

POS

Aside from these personalized shopping opportunities that the combination of online stores, iBeacons and smartphones enable, there is one further innovation to complete the smart retailing experience for the consumer – point of sale (POS) technology that allows consumers to pay for their goods quickly, safely and smartly.

Apple Pay is the big one that came out earlier this year. Using either your iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad, consumers now have the ability to pay for their purchases by simply presenting their device to in-store contactless readers with their fingers on Touch ID.

But Apple has even further innovations than that. The “Apple Store Experience”, as it has become known, has earned a reputation as being one of the most effective in retail. Store associates are able to service and check out customers no matter where they are in the store, creating mobile POS that eliminates long checkout lines, and of course cut down on lost sales due to walkouts.

Woman paying with smartphone by NFC

With POS, queues at your brick-and-mortar store will become a thing of the past.

One of the beauties of implementing such a system into your business is that you can also use mobile POS devices to sell products outside of the four walls of your actual shop. Consider the opportunity for kiosks, pop-up stores or stalls at special events.

Indeed, the great thing about smart retailing is that it can be done anywhere – after all, your customers will carry their smartphones around with them wherever they go, so bring your end of the smart technology to them, and there will be literally no boundaries to the smart retail experience.

Customers today much prefer shopping with POS systems in retail environments. We've taken this to the next level with the revolutionary eobuwie concept store. Instead of a regular shoe store, it's filled with kiosk tablets loaded with a custom app allowing shoppers to check their foot size with a scanner, filter all available shoes, and order them. 

The full automation of retail shoe shopping makes it possible to receive the right shoes in just 3 minutes without queues and wrong sizing. Such innovations in POS systems allow customers to browse, try on, and buy more efficiently and safely, not only during a pandemic. You can read the full story here.  

Michał Unolt, Head of PM, Snowdog

Constant Connections

If you start with a strong ecommerce presence, then there’s really no limit to what you can achieve in terms of the smart shopping experience for the customer. Using Spree, you can create a visually brilliant online store that contains and catalogues every single piece of information that a customer could possibly need to make an informed purchase. But don’t stop there.

You want even your walk-in customers to access this site, and by strategically placing iBeacons around your store, you can automatically direct your customers to the information that they need, and the message that you want them to have.

Apps make this possible, and by using something like Estimote you can create contextually rich mobile experiences for your in-store customers who come within close proximity to your beacons. Finally, make the smart shopping experience complete by offering a smart payment service – and this can be implemented directly into your Spree e-shop as well as your high street store.

When all of these things come together in retail, you can really start to foster an experience for shoppers like they’ve never had before, and you can expect increased sales, conversions and ultimately, profits for your efforts.

Did smart retail inspire you? Check out our posts on Internet of Things, too!

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