The retail industry has welcomed the inauguration of the first Amazon Go convenience store in Seattle, a futuristic brick-and-mortar establishment that seems to strike the right balance between tradition and technology. On the surface, Amazon Go may appear to be gimmicky in the sense that its most visible feature is the lack of checkout lines; however, the collective technology that operates this store is a clear sign that the retail industry is finally ready to face the future.
The Amazon Go store takes advantage of computer vision, geofencing, mobile apps, electronic payments, artificial intelligence, and proximity marketing to deliver a highly efficient and unforgettable customer experience. For industry analysts, the most interesting aspect of this development is that Amazon has realized the importance of a physical presence; to this effect, its acquisition of the Whole Foods supermarket chain last year speaks volumes about the company’s brick-and-mortar ambitions. Amazon will likely continue to tap into its vast treasure chest of digital resources to transform the physical store experience.
Less Gimmicks and More Concrete Solutions
Days before Amazon made headlines with its new convenience store, the National Retail Federation wrapped up its annual trade show and expo in New York City. As can be expected, technology was a major focus of this expo; however, the solutions presented this time were more realistic when compared to previous years.
Instead of virtual reality and 3D printing, technology exhibitors showed off advanced RFID tagging systems that provide real-time inventory tracking. Other technologies included “forklift robots” that can transport small loads from the stock room to the aisle where employees can place items on shelves; this can help store clerks dedicate more time to customers.
Maximizing In-Store Experience
Geofencing was another mature technology that caught the attention of retailers attending the NRF expo. The idea is to take advantage of the GPS features built into just about every smartphone these days; a small bakery and café can set up a geofence to send a notification about a free cup of cappuccino with every snack purchase.
An even more advanced technology is proximity marketing, which involves the use of Bluetooth beacons. In the aforementioned Amazon Go scenario, an advanced retail app can check a shopper’s purchase history and determine that she likes organic chips. When sensors detect her presence near the chip aisle, beacons can push a notification to inform her about healthy plantain chips on sale. Beacons can also be used to display product reviews and offer coupons; in the case of fashionable shoppers interested in cosmetics, beacons can suggest product combinations. Prompting shoppers to turn on Bluetooth connectivity on their smartphones can be accomplished by means of geofencing notifications or by setting up retail app permissions.
The big lesson being delivered by Amazon is that online shopping is still a long way from replacing brick-and-mortar stores. What retailers need to learn is how to embrace the right technologies for the purpose of enhancing customer experience right in the store.
Article Resources: Forbes
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