Can high-tech retail offer a sensory and tactile shopping experience? – Re-Tales by Dr. Rajendra Prasad Sharma
Sensory shoppers always dream of experiences and therefore love in-store visits. However, the pandemic has crippled the feel and atmosphere of stores. At the store entry point, employees wearing gloves and masks and sanitizing shoppers’ hands have become a standard of physical evidence of disinfection. Even with the disappearance of “do not touch” signs from store shelves spelling a return to normalcy, few customers are touching and smelling the merchandise.
Do stores need to continuously embrace technology even in the post-pandemic era? The pandemic has caused retailers of cosmetics, footwear, furniture and apparel to pivot the shopping experience to attract footfall or suffer losses. The showdown between physical and digital retail (high touch and high tech) is resolved. Modern retailers will strive to create a unique selling proposition of intimate shopping with phygital store innovations in the post-pandemic era.
For buyers, who prefer to avoid touching the goods and then disinfect their hands, hygiene problems remain a factor of fear. Contact points must be non-contact. Contactless purchases can produce preventative and positive results.
Technology solutions like RFID and Bluetooth create a unified mobile transfer and transfer content to the buyer’s smartphone. That too without direct contact with anything in the store. However, stores need to incorporate automation and augmented reality into the shopping journey. Amazon’s “go to the grocery store” removing the checkout promises touchless touchpoints throughout the purchase process. With an elevator to the level of the car park, the parcels arrive directly to the vehicles of the customers.
The omnichannel shopping experience will accelerate sensory shopping, with retailers emphasizing online touchpoints. Although such solutions already existed but remained hidden. The customer journey to purchase with online store improvements is one way to go. Technology-driven retail solutions to eliminate in-store physical contact can pave the way for store differentiation. Still, can high-tech retail delight sensory shoppers who have always valued high-touch?
All physical stores can have prototype stores on their websites. Customers can view the variety and assortment of merchandise before going to the store. Leaving the house with a store deposit and not returning empty-handed also helps time-poor shoppers. Appointment slots can further ensure that retailers only receive a predefined number of shoppers for a specific duration, ensuring quality interactions and service delivery.
Stores need digital differentiation. For example, buying an item of clothing such as a blazer always involves considering the right fit based on size, height, and several other factors. Customers just click on their image with a front and back view. The API (Application Programming Interface) server obtains the client’s body measurements and proportions. Deep machine learning and neural networks are useful in producing a unique algorithm to extract accurate measurements from an image. Shoppers can view blazer choices for their size and schedule an in-store physical visit.
Similarly, foot measurements on the website will help with shoes. Apps like Nike Fit offer hyper-accurate foot dimension analysis collecting 13 data points mapping foot morphology in seconds. Smart mirrors in stores make it easier to try on clothes without wearing them. 3D body mapping enables real-time test shots of clothing and accessories. It provides a perfect fit without contact during the trial process. If customers want to try another variant or another style, they can slip into the mirror. The adoption of augmented and virtual reality in the shopping experience is resonating with young people. AR/VR enables a combination of garment trials to evaluate many available alternatives and make the right purchase decision on color, size, and fit.
Finally, the digital payment process involves a facial recognition feature registering the shopper’s face with a specifically chosen payment method. The retailer only needs to install facial recognition software. Payment is made by sharing the one-time password (OTP) received on the customer’s mobile via voice recognition software. For example, Walmart no longer requires customers to submit their respective payment cards for purchases. The Walmart Pay app syncs to facilitate contactless payment when a shopper scans the QR code. Even after a seamless contactless shopping experience, customers may wish to exchange or return the purchased product. In such situations, retailers can offer a contactless returns process through the click-and-collect technology used by e-commerce platforms. The website or app will show the buyer’s purchase history. Anyone wishing to return the goods can click on return indicating the reason. The store representative can pick up the product from the customer and process the refund in their wallet.
Technology-enabled shopping experience
In the case of cosmetics, the likelihood of customers trying them on their face/skin with the help of a sales rep has definitely gone down. Augmented reality technology shows makeup products on a user’s face in real time without photo upload. A 2D try-on technology has already hit the market and gained popularity with online and in-store retailers. The tech interface will track the precise location of the user’s facial features and directly apply eye shadow or lip gloss to the video feed from the camera. Usually, people buy perfumes after testing a sample and spray it on their wrists, resulting in direct contact with their skin. The smell sells. Therefore, a technology-driven platform to scan or speak through voice recognition software, the combination of cologne that a customer wants to buy, can give an idea of the scent of the perfume. Digital olfaction technology can enable digital detection and analysis of different odors as well as digital transmission and recreation of odors. The technology interface to drive the retail consumer shopping experience is inevitable. The brightest minds in retail must rise to the challenge of reinvigorating the industry with innovative shopping solutions to thrive in the post-pandemic era.
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