By Andrew Getter, Retail Sales Manager, UK, Scandit
It wasn’t long ago that ‘contactless’ in the context of retail, primarily referred to a means of payment. With retail’s post lockdown return, the term ‘contactless retail’ now refers to far more than just payment. Retailers are looking at how they can function in a world where social distancing measures must be maintained, whilst retaining high levels of customer service.
The winners over the next year (or maybe even longer) will be those retailers who can successfully deliver and maintain high quality customer engagement and interaction, while still getting shoppers through their stores quickly, and all the while operating in a ‘COVID secure’ manner.
Of course, technology can help with these new challenges being faced by retailers. Here we will look at some of the ways mobile computer vision technology is helping innovative retailers adapt to create contactless yet engaging shopping experiences.
Bringing e-commerce style experiences into physical stores
The world of e-commerce is continually evolving and becoming more sophisticated. Many of the online techniques used by retailers to service the customer, such as presenting timely information and maximizing basket value, can be ported into the physical world of in-store. This is especially important in a post-COVID environment.
For those retailers who can blend the digital and the physical, merging online and offline experiences in a way that is helpful and truly seamless, the rewards are potentially huge.
Inform and engage shoppers in store – without creating lines outside
You must be able to present shoppers in store with the data they need to buy the products they are interested in – and maybe some they weren’t originally interested in – and still get them in and out in a timely fashion, so the next person in the line outside can enter.
Crucially, whilst interaction with store colleagues may be less than it was in pre-COVID times, a premium customer experience in-store can still be achieved. But only if the retailer uses the right digital tools, at the right time, and in the right way.
One of the bonds that ties the digital and physical world together is the barcode.
Accessible solutions for new and evolving challenges are essential
The ever-present, ubiquitous barcode has for many years been the digital product identifier that links the physical product to the digital world. Fortunately, this means that virtually all retailers are already in a position to start enabling physical/digital interactions via barcodes in-store through consumer applications.
We are already seeing this with self-scanning shopping apps on smartphones gaining popularity. The ability to scan items as you shop on your own phone to add them to the shopping list, then simply pay at the checkout station or within the mobile app and leave is increasingly valuable as limiting exposure and contact are key concerns. Shoppers can limit what they touch in store, as well as interactions with store employees, for added peace of mind.
[Video caption: Customer self-scanning on smartphones in action]
At Scandit, we have noticed a marked uptick in interest and adoption of self-scanning solutions since COVID kicked in. Some retailers reported a 100% increase in usage and unique users for their self-scanning shopping app since March 2020. We explored this subject in detail recently in a series of self-scanning webinars.
During the four webinar series we explored the game-changing impact of COVID on mobile self-scanning and also best practice around essential self-scanning app features, theft mitigation insights and the ROI that can be achieved by deploying self-scanning. You can view them on-demand here.
Go beyond self-scanning to enable increasingly sophisticated shopping journeys
Useful as self-scanning is, with the advent of computer vision and augmented reality, the humble barcode can now deliver a far more sophisticated range of experiences than simply adding a product to a digital basket.
With computer vision technology, any consumer smart device can be used to capture and decode not just one but multiple codes simultaneously. This experience can be blended with augmented reality to surface any data back to the customer and this then opens up a myriad of opportunities to retailers.
The reviews, cross-sells and product information, that are so seamlessly presented when shopping online, can now be shown in-store, overlaid on the physical product through Augmented Reality.
A consumer’s phone can now be used to ‘search and find’ products in-store by simply moving the device across a range of barcodes like a ‘wand’. For example, if a shopper in a grocery store is looking for a particular type of product to suit their dietary preferences (low fat or gluten free perhaps) or even a product with the highest user rating, they can scan multiple barcodes on the shelves at once and see the product highlighted on their device screen. It’s quick, easy and intuitive.
[Video caption: AR overlays create engaging experiences to support contactless shopping]
All of these experiences can help the customer to find what they need to make a buying decision in a way that saves time, increases conversion rates, and also contributes to enhancing the overall customer satisfaction.
Check out our latest retail infographic to see more of how augmented reality is helping transform store journeys in the contactless world.
Adapt and innovate to thrive
Necessity is the mother of invention and for retailers, the need to innovate has never been greater. Computer vision-based data capture and augmented reality are just two technologies that retailers can use to mitigate their current challenges.
Those who embrace these challenges and deliver the best customer experience over the coming 12-18 months will be the retailers that extend the gap between themselves and their competitors, increase their customer loyalty, and ultimately the lifetime value of those customers.