Since I originally gave this interview standing in the huge and bustling Javits Centre in Manhattan, NYC, the very same conference centre has become a hospital for COVID-19 patients. Clearly the world is very different now. While the retail sector is having to respond quickly to extreme trading and operational patterns, retailers are also looking to the future and tell us they are bringing forward digital transformation plans to rethink and adapt in preparation for the ‘new normal’.
We are seeing increased usage and demand in the grocery sector for mobile self-scanning services as a way to achieve ‘contactless retail’, and are helping customers bring forward existing plans and accelerate rollouts for this technology.
Likewise, we are providing extra technical support to grocery customers scaling-up their e‑commerce order fulfilment and contactless pick-up systems. This means having workers use a scanning app on a familiar smart device to do fast order-picking for click-and-collect (BOPIS/buy-on-line-pick-up-in-store) services, followed by contactless proof of delivery.
Ultimately, the demand to blend the physical and digital remains stronger than ever, and will of course play a crucial role in shaping future retail.
Samuel Mueller, CEO & Co-Founder, Scandit
Q: Tell us about how Scandit helps retailers?
Scandit is a mobile computer vision platform that helps retailers blend the physical and digital world by powering applications which allow shoppers to do things like connecting with products on the shelf in a very natural and seamless manner, looking up relevant product information, and then checkout to complete the purchase very easily.
Q: And how does Scandit technology support retail associates?
On the associate side, our technology is being used to basically give super powers to associates by enabling employees to easily look up relevant product information on smart devices. They can provide deep insights into the products on the shelves, scanning and identifying products in real time and serving up relevant information from store based Point of Sale systems, ERP systems or other sources to really give sales associates an advantage.
Q: Why do we need to blend the physical and digital worlds in brick-and-mortar stores?
Traditionally, brick-and-mortar retail would leave customers in stores isolated, lacking access to a lot of relevant information before making a purchase decision. In the age of ecommerce things have naturally changed, and as consumers we are used to accessing all sorts of information (like reviews and features) before making a transaction, being guided through the decision making process in a very natural and easy way. As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers need to follow suit to remain competitive and provide similar experiences and benefits to shoppers and customers.
Q: A lot of technologies interplay with the physical world, but what are some of the key components?
Essentially technology is needed to bridge the gap between the product on the one hand and the user on the other. And there are different technologies which can do this. First and foremost though, are the cameras on smart devices which are possibly the most universal sensors, and they allow shoppers or associates to identify products. Camera-based identification can, for example, support and facilitate a connection with the physical item, represent the item in digital space and then look up essential product information to help make better, more informed purchasing decisions.
Q: How can retailers become digitally native?
As a starting point, if I’m a retailer I need to bring my databases together and create a universal view of my assortment in the digital space.
Secondly, I need to be able to match this information to the physical products that I keep in my stores, and create ways for associates and shoppers to look up this information.
Thirdly, I want to connect this capability to various forms of facilitating and enabling a transaction. On the fulfillment and delivery side, I want to offer distinct ways for consumers to be able to get access to the products that they purchased – it’s no longer the case that once I’ve purchased a product through one channel, for example the digital store, that I’ll want that product delivered through the same channel. I may pay for a product in store and have it delivered to my home or buy online and go and pick up the product in store through BOPIS.
Q: What are the main advantages of a digitally native retailer vs a pureplay physical retailer?
A digitally native retailer is able to drive more relevance to me as a customer and support me in making the right decision, at the right time and even help after I’ve paid. This means I can shop when I want, however I want and in the place I want – and ultimately this matches up with my needs as a modern citizen and consumer.
Q: Can you give an example of where you have seen both worlds blending beautifully on a large scale?
One particular example that I’d like to mention is Coop Denmark. Coop Denmark has rethought how to engage and support sales associates in physical store locations and empower them through mobile apps running on smart devices. These convenient, easy-to-use scanning-enabled apps put their staff in a position to go about typical retail tasks, such as shelf management, reordering and restocking more effectively.
Coop have also importantly been a great example of how to bring customer self-scanning to life, across a very large store estate with more than 1000 locations. Their shoppers are able to simply download an app, engage with a product in the physical retail store, add products to a virtual basket or learn about product characteristics and properties, all with a quick scan of the barcode. They can also add coupons and rewards to their purchase or take advantage of their loyalty profiles. The end of that app-enabled shopping journey is a simple mobile checkout process, where the transaction can be seamlessly facilitated,
In summary, they have done a great job bringing these technologies together, aggregating relevant information from different store based and eCommerce systems to create a very compelling and comprehensive shopping experience through the app, and using modern technology to enable customers to interact with products on the shelf through barcode scanning and other means.
Q: What trends are you watching in 2020 and beyond?
There is one particular trend to watch, which is the convergence of several different technologies coming together to provide particular business benefits to the user.
The past few years were marked by individual technologies which created a lot of hype or interest in this space, such as Amazon Go which hit the scene two years ago. But what we have been observing over the past year is this convergence trend, where technologies are being brought together, and I’m thinking about mobile apps, self-scanning, digital loyalty coupons, the ability to check out seamlessly, and augmented reality – all coming together to better guide customers to the right products and help them to make better decisions.
For example, retailers who have spent time rolling out mobile self-scanning solutions on a large scale are now integrating a variety of technologies, aiming to create more compelling and engaging experiences for shoppers and unlock immediate value to their businesses.
Bridging Digital & Physical Retail With Smartphones, Barcodes & AR
For more expert analysis on the future of retail from industry leaders, watch this on-demand webinar to hear retail analyst and futurist, Kate Ancketill, and CTO and co-founder of Scandit, Christian Floerkemeier, discuss how the whole of retail is reorienting itself around the smartphone, why computer vision technology is the key to unlocking the smartphones productivity and profitability potential, plus examples of how the technology is being used today.
If you would like to speak directly with a Scandit Solutions Consultant, contact us today.