While many retailers have installed technology in their stores to offer proximity marketing, few offer a true mobile check-in experience. Here are some examples of the most advanced companies.
The world’s largest retailer announced in 2018 that it was a “technology company”, a claim it backed up with the creation of its technology incubator Store No. 8, the acquisition of companies such as e-commerce giant FlipKart, and the planned hiring of 2,000 technology experts in 2019.
A latecomer in e-commerce, Walmart now sees itself in a critical race against Amazon, and has invested heavily from back-end automation to shelf restocking robots. For customers, the Walmart app automatically kicks into Store Assistant mode as they enter a store, featuring barcode scanning, product search, customer reviews and in-app payment. Other technologies announced so far include barcodes for returns, associate mobility, Virtual Reality training and Augmented Reality entertainment.
Shop floor maps and navigation were added to the app early 2018 and are gradually being rolled out to Walmart’s nearly 5,000 stores. The maps can locate items from an integrated digital shopping list available in the app. As an extension, a dotcom service allows in-store customers to order anything from walmart.com with the help of an associate and pay in-store.
But Walmart’s journey has not been without its challenges. For example, Scan and Go functionality was launched in 2018 only to be withdrawn a few months later due to lack of uptake. Walmart’s customers are still finding their way with all this technology.
Customers can digitally check-in to 50 of Target USA’s nation-wide stores, by opening the Target app. The stores are equipped with a network of BLE beacons fitted to the LED lighting, and the brand can locate their customers anywhere in-store to make offers and suggestions of items in their vicinity. These are kept in the ‘Target Run’ newsfeed-like list which is updated as the customer navigates through the aisles.
To make the shopping experience even easier, with each store comes a detailed map that also highlights the items in the customer’s Target Run list. Barcodes can be scanned with the smartphone app to find out prices and read reviews. In the future, the app is said to give customers the ability to call a team member for help.
“Drive Up” is Target USA’s ‘click-and-collect’. It lets you know when the order is ready, and after parking in the designated spot of the local store, a team member brings your shopping out “in just two minutes”. Dynamic pricing is another feature of the app, and their price match policy supports the brand’s claim to always have the lowest prices.
The digital experience is core to Nike’s retail strategy and customers are encouraged to use the Nike apps as a permanent connection with the brand be they at home or in-store. With the opening of its six-storey “House of Innovation 000” in New York City in December 2018, Nike introduced store product search and self-checkout through the app.
The next step took place at the 2019 Super Bowl in Atlanta, GA, where they opened a pop-up store exclusively for users of the Nike SNKRS app. In essence, the store was designed as a physical representation of the app, and is seen by many industry analysts as a model many other brands may follow. There’s even a vending machine of accessories available by scanning a personal QR code from the app. Customers are geo-located when close to the store with push notifications to collect ordered items.
Sydney Airport & Qantas Airline
In addition to offering indoor Google Maps and Baidu Maps for passenger navigation throughout its three terminals, Sydney Airport announced in mid-2018 the first stages of a ‘couch-to-gate’ biometrics trial. It involves select Qantas customers and uses facial recognition to facilitate airline check-in, bag drop, lounge access and boarding.
The facial check-in also allows airport and lounge staff to welcome and assist passengers based on their profile and needs. The program is based on passenger consent and is said to enforce the strictest privacy standards and to comply with all data protection legislation.
With 43 million passengers entering the airport each year, the vision is to one day forego passport control entirely and automate border processing. It aims to change the way air travel is perceived and experienced in the 21st century.
American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) as originally called have been testing and deploying in-store digital technologies for many years. Using beacons, in-store customers of the AEO app are detected and identified, triggering the app to open up on their smartphone. Location-based and personalised offers and store information are provided, with special rewards for visiting the dressing rooms.
American Eagle see the app as a ‘digital overlay’ to the physical store, turning it into the user’s personalised store. Finding articles in specific sections and scanning product barcodes add to the app features, while minimising promotional messaging.
The retail technology trend-setter of the Western world, Amazon Go has replicated a check-in technology already well in use in China, namely QR codes. With in-store physical turnstiles and a QR code in their smartphone app, a customer is identified upon entry and matched to their physical presence by Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ technology.
The company claims to not make use of facial recognition technology but rather computer vision, machine learning and sensor fusion, in a similar way to driverless vehicles. A shopper simply picks items off the shelves and walks out. The receipt appears automatically in the app.
Many Chinese companies operate is a similar way except for the use of facial recognition. E-commerce giant JD.com opened the first human-free convenience store in January 2018, and was also the first to expand internationally to Jakarta Indonesia.
Tomorrow’s Trusted Retailer
Trust is in question
The ability to connect with customers digitally in-store comes at a time when trust in institutions is dropping.
Trust and loyalty is key to short and long term success in retail, and nearly three quarters of retail executives worldwide see it as very to critically important. Unprompted smartphone messages at a time when personal data protection and privacy is top of mind can easily undermine a brand’s best efforts.
Government legislation such as the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) states that personal data processing by institutions is subject to prior consent and strictly limited to the purpose of the business. It should be easily auditable by the user who also should be personally informed of any data breach.
The app is the channel of the future
Tomorrow’s leaders in retail worldwide will use the smartphone app as the primary vehicle for customer communication and commerce. The increasing sophistication of the device and the pervasiveness of cloud services, allow retailers to continually enhance their customers’ shopping experience.
The store entrance is where cyberspace chrysalises into physical reality, and the retailer’s app shifts into a store assistant role. Physical stores become a symbiotic part and natural extension of the space created by the app.
Just as a frequent flyer is personally greeted by an lounge officer, informed of local facilities, and kept abreast of flight updates, so does the retail app come alive to greet, inform and serve the customer while in-store.
Mobile check-in enables the future
The fundamental first step to unified commerce is mobile check-in technology: a location-aware service that triggers the app to become a useful and dependable resource throughout the in-store experience, while respecting users’ privacy selections.
With mobile check-in, a retailer can deliver unified commerce and attain a level of trusted advisor who, in their field of expertise...
Sales associates will be supplemented by online avatars and/or AI-powered chatbots to assist and guide customers. At any time and anywhere, a customer feels at home with the retailer.
Early adopter retailers have demonstrated that mobile check-in technology is already in use, and is ‘crossing the chasm’ to deliver on the unified commerce vision.
A retail app incorporating the Parousya ACIS SDK and cloud services is a simple and low cost solution that connects the arriving customer with the brand and local staff, respects the choice of shopping incognito or fully revealed, and ACIS meets GDPR, Australian and USA privacy regulations.
For more details about ACIS, please contact Parousya.