An intelligent store framework needs to consider two interlocking components: in-store customer experience and associate empowerment. The following capabilities can help retailers re-imagine in-store experiences for both customers and associates, thereby boosting customer loyalty and associate productivity.
The endless aisle refers to digital kiosks that allow retailers to present their entire global catalogue in a store, enabling them to connect customers with more products and carry less inventory on site. While this capability in itself is not new, retailers can increase their competitive edge by adding advanced functions to their endless aisle experience, such as global inventory visibility (across all stores, warehouses, suppliers, in transit), personalized recommendations based on individual preferences, multiple fulfilment options (BOPIS, home delivery) with transparent ETAs, and multiple payment options (digital wallets, subscriptions, buy now pay later).
Guided Shopping with Contactless Checkout
Guided shopping allows retailers to provide a personalized, omni-channel product discovery experience that boosts in-store conversion rates, basket size, and customer loyalty. Imagine a virtual assistant recommending products based on a customer’s individual needs, purchase history, search and browse patterns, and real-time data on store inventory. With guided shopping, retailers can provide valuable product information such as ratings and influencer endorsements to aid in a purchase. Consumers can access this information directly from stores by scanning a QR code. A frictionless shopping experience ends with contactless checkout. Rather than standing in a queue, customers add items to their cart, check out using their mobile app, and simply walk out of the store.
Digitalized Associate Engagement
Digitalized associate engagement focuses on improving associate engagement through mobile apps aimed at better labor management — think streamlined shift assignment, digitalized payroll and compensation management, effortless time and attendance tracking, and transparent rewards and incentives made more attractive through gamification. Frontline employees work directly with customers and need to stay motivated to ensure customer satisfaction. Digitalizing associate engagement improves associate retention while driving positive brand representation.
“Clientelling” can refer to different things for different retailers, but most retailers agree that the core of clientelling is empowering store associates to improve shopper engagement. As such, clientelling includes addressing customer queries, guiding customers on product information, cross-selling and up-selling, and queue management.
Digitalized clientelling equips associates with smart mobile apps that provide insights on customer preferences, next best actions, real-time inventory visibility, mobile checkout, and other client-focused tools. Digitalized clientelling can improve KPIs like traffic conversion rates, basket size and queue reduction. Because it requires integrating numerous capabilities (inventory visibility, product information, point-of-sale, personalization), it is also one of the more complex pieces of the intelligent store puzzle.
Missing items, improper signage, and incorrect pricing can ruin a customer’s in-store experience, and the usual solution — an in-person shelf audit — is manual and expensive. In an intelligent store, associates can leverage computer vision, AI, and cloud to detect and correct shelf anomalies quickly — be it visual merchandising validation or low shelf inventory alerts. Retailers can realize significant benefits through real-time smart shelf insights, such as visibility to corporate on the accuracy of product displays, and corrective task alerts for store associates so that visual merchandise is compliant and shelves are fully stocked.
Store Traffic Analytics
Using IoT and computer vision, visual merchandisers can now reimagine store layouts and optimize visual merchandising strategies based on how traffic is behaving within stores. Without violating consumer privacy, retailers can investigate the specific aisles, fixtures, and products that are driving positive or negative engagement by measuring dwell times, detecting emotions from CCTV video data, and leveraging edge computing and AI/machine learning to covert raw data into concrete interventions. Visual merchandisers can use these same tools to run rapid A/B tests between different visual merchandising strategies to see which ones are most effective in driving engagement and product interactions.
Building the Store of the Future
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to building the store of the future, and the components of the intelligent store framework mentioned here must be prioritized in a manner that accounts for sector-specific business strategies. Luxury retailers, for example, often have smaller store formats that require one or two sales associates and emphasize lengthy customer engagement, while grocery and departmental retailers have larger store formats that capture value by optimizing store layout, enabling easy product discovery and driving efficient operations.
An intelligent store implementation strategy also needs to consider the digital maturity of the individual retailer. Conducting an initial maturity assessment is crucial to identify a viable target state and create an effective roadmap.
While the store of the future will rely on numerous new digital capabilities, those individual capabilities will not drive value if they are not connected to a comprehensive intelligent store framework. The retailers that holistically consider the impacts of new digital capabilities on both customers and associates will be the ones that unlock the most value from the emerging retail ecosystem.