Computer vision delivers an edge to in-store customer experiences

| Retail

Augmented Product Information in Retail

By Paul Davis, Vice President of sales, UK and Northern Europe

Market research firm Escalent recently reported in-store retail sales growth in the US of 3.4% in 2019 versus 16% for ecommerce retail sales. In-store retailers are increasingly looking for new and innovative ways to engage with customers, but lack of digital engagement often sends them elsewhere to buy. For physical stores that have failed to embrace ecommerce, finding ways to cut through the noise can be particularly difficult. So how can physical store retailers remain competitive in the world of ecommerce? Here we’ll highlight examples of how real retailers are using computer vision to drive digital in store experiences that delight customers and empower associates.

The UK Office of National Statistics reports that as of November 2019, a full 21.5% of all UK retail sales are online sales, a nearly 40% increase over the last four years. Experts forecast the percentage of online sales to climb to over 50% of total retail sales within ten years. This makes sense because collectively, ecommerce is providing consumers with more information and freedom than ever before. By simply browsing on their smartphones, customers have access to thousands of product or service reviews, detailed information and the option to tailor their online orders. 

To take advantage of these benefits, brick-and-mortar retailers have been turning to mobile computer vision to add the convenience of ecommerce to the experience of shopping in-store. Computer vision and augmented reality (AR) enable smartphones to use their built-in cameras to see, identify and process barcodes and other images, and then provide instant product information, in the same way ecommerce retailers do. 

With the right computer vision and AR software, an inexpensive smart device can be turned into an enterprise-grade data capture and display tool that helps to meet the needs of both shoppers and employees. The user simply hovers the smartphone over a barcode or label to see information such as product information, stock availability or reviews, displayed over the image on the screen. This has transformed the potential use of retail smartphone apps, accelerating in-store operations and back-of-house processes. 

Bringing the perks of ecommerce in-store is easier than you think 

When retailers think of automated in-store experiences, most turn to Amazon Go as a shining example. These concept stores enable customers to simply walk into space, take the items they want to buy, and leave without ever touching a checkout. And while Amazon Go brings exciting retail opportunities to the table, it’s not a solution within the grasp of many retailers. The concept is created with hundreds of cameras and weight sensors and the infrastructure investment is huge. This is one of the reasons why many retailers are turning to mobile computer vision solutions instead. The convenience store chain Valora is a perfect example of how mobile computer vision helps deliver the most desired benefits of the “just walk out” store with a relatively small financial investment and virtually no disruption. Read the Valora case study.

Most of the tools needed to create a great digital in-store shopping experience already exist in stores. The price tags, barcodes, and other unique identifiers are already in place; all that’s left is to deploy a solution that enables customers and employees to interact with products digitally. A scanning enabled smartphone with augmented reality (AR) overlays, is an example of such a solution, and with them, retailers can win the hearts and minds of customers through Amazon Go-type shopping experiences that streamline, engage and inspire.

Mobile shopping apps powered by affordable mobile computer vision software enable retailers to give customers the same critical product information they get from ecommerce retailers’ websites such as customer and professional reviews and ratings, inventory insights, specifications, and product videos. When you consider these instant direct benefits, it’s easy to see how this blending of the physical and digital worlds help customers to make better-informed purchasing decisions in-store. 

Since 2016, US-based music and instrument retailer Guitar Center has enabled customers using Scandit-powered smart devices to scan products and get instant information like reviews, availability, and video demonstrations. By integrating Scandit barcode scanning into their mobile shopping app Guitar Center offers in-store customers access to the most popular features from the online store right from their smartphones. Check out the Guitar Center case study.

Customers want personal service

Mobile computer vision can also be used to provide personalised information to shoppers in-store, such as individually targeted discounts. When a customer scans a product through a retail app, they can receive information on relevant promotions. They can be sent coupons and other discounts via in-app displays through augmented reality (AR) overlays – creating a more custom interaction and driving sales in the process.

German wholesaler and food retailer METRO AG currently uses mobile computer vision to personalized pricing  to individual customers. Once they have scanned a product barcode on a shelf, users receive their personal price via an AR-overlay  and see how much they are saving at the same time right on their device screen. Jörg Decker, Product Owner for Mobile Commerce at METRONOM, the tech unit of METRO AG explained, “Customers using the app have a better level of knowledge at the time of their decision to buy. They feel appealed to and looked after personally. This meets METRO’s objective, because displaying the individual product prices is a very special service we provide for our customers.” Learn more in the METRO AG case study.

“Customers using the app have a better level of knowledge at the time of their decision to buy. They feel appealed to and looked after personally. This meets METRO’s objective, because displaying the individual product prices is a very special service we provide for our customers.”

Start delivering an interactive in-store experience today

The greatest benefit of bringing computer vision solutions into brick-and-mortar stores is one that no ecommerce merchant could ever provide. This innovative yet proven technology provides consumers with new convenience and choice in a personalized and experience, greatly improving the customer journey. 

Since the start of ecommerce there has been lots of talk among retailers about the benefits of experiential retail, providing consumers with an experience instead of just a product or service as a way to compete more effectively. This had always been easier said than done – but today’s retailers don’t need to make sizeable capital investments to create these new and unique shopping experiences. Scandit can help you start delivering the shopping experience your customers want, contact us and find out how.