Will high tech retail get people off their computers and back into stores?

Uncategorized Posted Jan 23, 2013 by chenpr

When you think of digital shopping you probably think of shopping online or scanning coupons on your mobile, but the scope of digital shopping will become much wider in the coming years as the brick and mortar retail stores begin to adopt in-store technology.  The question being, how will this change the in-store shopping experience we’re all accustomed to?

As I’ve done before on this blog and as I do with most things, my thought pattern goes right to a movie reference.  Remember in Minority Report when Tom Cruise is walking through a shopping center and there are Virtual Assistants greeting him personally with knowledge of his purchase history and ads change to greet the person currently in front of it with their full name?  Is that the creepy uber-personal future of retail? (Maybe if Mark Zuckerberg had his way).

As a no-fuss shopper and former retail employee, I’m all for retail improving its use of technology to streamline the shopping process and make the customer more independent.

In fact, Ad Age recently outlined ways some retailers will be upping their tech-cred in 2013 and fortunately, it doesn’t sound anything like Minority Report.

  • Walmart is testing “Scan and Go,” a checkout system that would allow shoppers to skip checkout lines by using their mobile phone to scan items and pay at self-serve kiosks.
  • JC Penney has added kiosks featuring interactive maps and the ability to purchase products not available in store.
  • Kohl’s is planning a nationwide implementation of e-signs, which allow it to easily change prices on items remotely.

In-store marketing is also going high-tech, according to Ad Age.  The much-hyped RFID tags are being used by retailers like New Balance and L.L. Bean to display related video content when a customer picks up a shoe from a display.

walmart_CHEN PRWhen it comes to whether or not shoppers will be receptive to these newly implemented technologies, I think it’s a mixed bag.  There will be plenty of shoppers who will love a scan-and-go kiosk so they can skip the lines, and skip the small talk.  “You mean I get to shop for things in person but I still get the ease-and-speed of online or mobile shopping? Sign me up!”  But I also think there will  be plenty of people who don’t as hastily adopt new technologies that will prefer the traditional check-out lines.

And while I think the technology of RFID tags is the cat’s pajamas, I also think that I’m not going to stop to watch a video or commercial while I’m browsing for cross trainers, (Sorry L.L. Bean, you know I love you).  But I do think there can be great uses for RFID triggered content.  For example, if I’m at William Sonoma shopping the latest kitchen gadgets, wouldn’t it be great if RFID tags triggered how-to videos for it’s products? (Feel free to use that idea WS, I won’t be mad).

I guess what I’m trying to say is that introducing new technologies to retail stores has the potential to be a major success if it’s done right and doesn’t hinder the shopper experience.   I would love to see RFID everywhere as long as the content is useful to me, the shopper.  And as someone who worked in retail for years and has had her fair share of customers avoid her like the plague, terrified that I may ask them if they need assistance, the scan and go option is a great way to streamline the shopping experience for the fast-paced customer.

So don’t be surprised if you see your favorite retailers adopting new technology in 2013 as they try to form the perfect hybrid of a brick and mortar store and the digital shopping experience.