Tomorrow’s retail stores want to take a page from their online rivals by embracing advanced technology — everything from helpful robots to interactive mirrors to shelves embedded with sensors.
The goal: Use these real-world store features to lure shoppers back from the internet, and maybe even nudge them to spend more in the process.
Amazon’s new experimental grocery store in Seattle, opening in early 2017, will let shoppers buy goods without needing to stop at a checkout line. Sensors track items as shoppers put them into baskets or return them to the shelf. The shopper’s Amazon account gets automatically charged.
“Amazon, for good or bad, has been setting the path,” said Robert Hetu, research director at Gartner Research. “Each retailer is going to have to respond in some way. But it’s not one-size-fits-all.”
Kroger, Neiman Marcus and Lowe’s are among the companies already experimenting with futuristic retail stores. Robots, for instance, could help guide shoppers to the right aisle, while augmented reality apps could help you see how a particular shade of paint will look in the living room — or how you might look in a pair of jeans. Many of these technologies will be unveiled or demonstrated at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, which begins Tuesday with media previews.
Plenty of retailers have learned through trial — and error — that technology can’t get too far ahead of shoppers. It has to be easy to use and beneficial to shoppers in some way, whether it’s to save time or money. If retailers get it right, they might succeed in boosting spending at retail stores at a time when consumers increasingly prefer to shop online.
Here are five technologies coming to a store near you.
Web retailers have plenty of data on their customers. Some of these online technologies can even track shoppers from site to site to lure them back with what’s known as retargeting ads — promos targeted to what that shopper has looked at before, but didn’t actually buy. Smart shelves with sensors promise the same kind of in-depth consumer behavior analytics at retail stores.
Home improvement retailer Lowe’s is testing robots in one of its San Jose, California, store, and plans to roll them out to 10 more stores in the state this year. Besides scanning shelves for inventory, the robots can guide customers to specific products in both English and Spanish.
High-end clothing stores are testing interactive mirrors in dressing areas, a key place where shoppers decide whether to buy or not.
Virtual And Augmented Reality
These tools should become more pervasive. At CES, a major clothing chain is expected to announce a tool for shoppers to virtually try on jeans and other items.
Stores have been pushing self-service kiosks for years to lower labor costs and speed up checkout lines.