Augmented Reality (AR): Defining The Future of Physical Retail

Augmented reality (AR) is bringing transformative change to our lives. For the physical retail landscape, it presents opportunities to innovate customer experience and raise productivity levels in operations. But how exactly does augmented reality work in the context of retail environments – and how can your retail stores leverage this exciting technology to create smarter, smoother in-store shopping experiences – without breaking the bank?

For a decade, Scandit has been innovating (and winning awards!)  in the retail industry through proprietary computer vision solutions. Our computer vision and augmented reality technology  turns basic smart devices into enterprise-grade barcode and text-scanning devices, streamlining regular in-store and back-of-house retail tasks such as shelf management, inventory control and price verification. Today, we’ll discuss AR’s impact on the retail industry – and explore potential augmented reality-enabled solutions for your own retail enterprise.

Augmented Reality in Retail

In its simplest form, augmented reality is a technology that merges computer-generated assets with real-world environments. In the realm of retail, AR brings a new dimension to physical shopping environments enabling retailers to offer key information on products in real time to improve customer experiences and employee productivity. It means retail staff can quickly scan a line of products and see real-time data pop up on the device screen, for example stock levels, delivery information, price verification.  So with one tap of a smart device, essential tasks are completed in super-quick time.

Amazon Go & Bringing Digital Retail In-Store

Many consider Amazon Go to be the best marriage of physical and digital retail features we’ve seen to date. And while there’s no doubt that Amazon’s digitally enhanced shopping experience is redefining the way we think about physical retail, that model just isn’t feasible for most brick-and-mortar retailers today. The level of technology and infrastructure investment is prohibitive for most – from cameras to shelves equipped with scales to pressure sensors. Fortunately, retailers can achieve an Amazon Go-type experience with computer vision and AR-enabled smart devices for a tiny fraction of the cost.

Perhaps the most powerful advantage of augmented reality in retail is its capacity to combine the digital and physical shopping worlds. Customers using AR-enabled apps on their own smart devices may access valuable, real-time product information quickly and while they’re actually with the physical product in the store. With a Scandit AR-enabled shopping app, customers see product promotions, special pricing, product ingredients, allergy information, video reviews – whatever feeds the retailer wants to provide their customers. They can also scan several barcodes at once to search for products that score the highest buyer reviews, match the user’s personal shopping history, or meet specific requirements, such as gluten-free foods – again, all done from the shopping aisle.

Here are just a few of the key physical retail workflows that can be made more efficient with a barcode scanning smart device versus a dedicated barcode scanner:

In-Store Advantages of using AR features

Shelf Management

The same underlying AR-technology is also used in employee apps, to provide product information to help serve customers better or to perform regular operational tasks, such as Shelf Management.  Employees simply point their device along items on a shelf to bring operational information onto the device screen – like stock levels, delivery information and price verification. What makes this process unbelievably fast is a special bit of technology called MatrixScan, which scans and tracks multiple barcodes at once. Barcode scanning-enabled retail apps featuring augmented reality (AR) are compatible with almost any camera-enabled smart device, including the personal smartphones of employees – which is useful, for example if you’re operating a BYOD (bring your own device) policy or perhaps bring in temporary seasonal staff.  

Self-Checkout

Barcode scanning technology featuring AR, transforms any smart device into a powerful barcode scanner, which means customers can use the same mobile application to scan their shopping and for self-checkout. This benefits shoppers with more flexibility and saved time at checkout, and offers retailers increased efficiency (e.g. faster checkout, shorter queues) and cost savings (e.g. fewer manned checkouts). Fewer busy checkout lanes also increases the amount of floor space available for revenue-generating displays in the store.

Price Verification

AR-equipped smartphone apps make it easy to verify product prices by delivering immediate feedback to the device screen when incorrect prices are scanned. With the right mobile data capture software in your app, employee smartphones can recognize barcodes and alphanumeric text (OCR) to confirm accurate product prices, reducing human error and the consequent potential revenue loss.

In-Store Picking

Retail staff can take advantage of AR technology to quickly and seamlessly find the correct products for shoppers with a single touch on their smartphones. Scandit MatrixScan makes it possible to scan multiple barcodes simultaneously, and then augmented reality (AR) overlays an alert on the device screen when the correct item is found. So pickers can find the correct customer items much more quickly from a crowded assortment of products.

Back-of-House Advantages

Search & Find

With a barcode scanning-enabled mobile app, employees can quickly and easily locate items based on predefined criteria. MatrixScan does the ‘batch scanning’ and AR highlights and alerts the user on the device screen. This functionality is invaluable for the fastest Click & Collect service – the employee scans the barcode from the customer’s receipt and then does ‘search and find’ in the stock room.

Shipping & Receiving

Augmented reality-enabled smartphones enable warehouse staff to instantly ID and collect orders through one comprehensive app to support more efficient shipping and receiving efforts. These intuitive retail management solutions require no training and can be quickly implemented across your brick-and-mortar retail teams – while generating a fraction of the TCO (total cost of ownership) of traditional scanning hardware.

Stock Taking & Inventory Management

Using in-app augmented reality (AR) with Scandit MatrixScan, retail employees can capture the barcodes of multiple items on a shelf instantly with one scan and then see real-time stock information on the device screen. It’s this type of efficiency improvement that drives up productivity and reduces costs involved in managing store inventory.

Redefine Physical Retail Today

Ready to learn more about AR-enabled solutions that turn your smartphone into a barcode scanner – and how you can unlock new opportunities for your brick-and-mortar retail teams? Take a look at our whitepaper Think Like Amazon, which explores how brick-and-mortar retailers can leverage advanced computer vision data capture and augmented reality to compete effectively with online retailers. It’s the perfect place to start if you’re aiming to create a more engaging and cost-efficient omnichannel store environment that drives retail results.

Last but not least, don’t hesitate to contact Scandit if you have any questions regarding Amazon augmented reality type solutions, Scandit technology, or AR for retail in general. We’d be happy to hear from you.