By Fiona Briggs
In an increasingly multi-channel world, shoppers are coming to exÂpect a seamless experience between a retailerâ€™s store and its online and mobile operations for a complete brand experience. Enhanced by social media, technology is paving the way for an enÂtirely new way for consumers to shop. Social media aside, in the U.K., new in-store technologies are whatâ€™s enÂhancing and shaping the customerâ€™s reÂtail experience and shopping journey.
One such global technology company helping to refine the shopping experiÂence is NCR Corporation, whose softÂware solutions will help retailers create new types of "experiential" stores that blend digital discovery and exploraÂtion with the sensory impact of seeing and touching products. These stores will use media management software to change content on video walls and interactive touchscreens in response to celebrity trends and soÂcial media reviews as well as time of day or weather conditions.
Symon Dacon, a provider of digital signage and teleÂcom solutions, offers interÂactive touchscreens that can be used to orient people to where they are or to feaÂture recipes, which can be printed out or scanned by a smartphone. The compaÂnyâ€™s manager of visual comÂmunications, Matt Cole, reÂports that digital displays, such as video walls, can also be tailored to promote different messages at different times of the day.
For a completely unique customer inÂteraction, how about investing in a virÂtual mannequin? Media Zest claims its life-size projection of a person will stop shoppers in their tracks. The manÂnequin can be touchscreen interactive, triggered by movement or play content on a loop. Stores can use the virtual asÂsistants to give shoppers repetitive mesÂsages, help drive sales or welcome cusÂtomers in their very own way.
Convenience store retailers in the U.K. are increasingly putting doors on chiller cabinets to cut gas emissions. Stratacache has launched the perfect partner in PrimaSee, a translucent digiÂtal display that showcases videos. These see-through promotional videos can be integrated into existing chiller and freezer cabinet doors and, using a media player, conÂtent can be immediately updated based on current promotions.
Retailers can use techÂnology to remove one of the biggest customer frustrations: queuing. ReÂsearch by communications provider BT found that 69% of shoppers found queuing the aspect they most disliked about shopping.
NCR claims to have a queue-busting solution in its new convertible self-service and assisted-checkout. It switches beÂtween self- or assisted-checkout modes, based on a retailerâ€™s operating model and customer traffic. John Curnow, NCRâ€™s area industry director of retail and hosÂpitality, says itâ€™s been driven by demand from major retailers who want to be able to handle peak volumes more efficiently. The checkout is converted via a swivel mount design and a secondary display and PIN pad for store staff.
Wincor Nixdorf claims its 360Â° scanÂner will give customers a new shopÂping experience and improve throughÂput. Shoppers place their products on the checkout belt and a 360Â° scanner portal registers the purchases autoÂmatically, scanning item barcodes at speeds of up to 60 items per minute.
Contactless payment is forecast to increase, releasing staff from the regÂisters to focus on service and the cusÂtomer experience.
BT Expedite, BTâ€™s retail division, has developed an iPadÂenabled POS system, which can check product availability and place online orders when the right stock is not imÂmediately available. The iPad POS also shortens queue times and makes the payment process mobile, simpler and more engaging. Devices can also incorÂporate merchandising information and be used for e-learning activities.
Cloud-based services are tipped to play a bigger role in retail too. Offering on-demand and instant access, these servicÂes will be used to reduce operating costs and enable staff to be more effective.
Communications service provider Timico, for example, is working with Murco Petroleum to eliminate missed sales opportunities caused by the temÂporary loss of Internet connection. Its service ensures that all service stations will automatically switch to a failsafe wireless back-up if connectivity is lost during business hours.
Epson, meanwhile, has developed a retail printing solution capable of working with cloud-based systems. Its new printers can print out receipts, tickets and coupons at the point-of-sale as well as in back-office and kitchen environments, directly from tablets or other mobile devices. Targeted at retail stores and foodservice environments, Epson claims the solution cuts down queue times and helps improve the cusÂtomer experience.
Shoppers these days have never had it so good.
Fiona Briggs is a retail business journalÂist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.