Time for the future of retail: how stores introduce touchless technology

This year has been extraordinary and challenging, to say the least. Although the pandemic triggered an exponential growth for some sectors like e-commerce or video conferencing and significantly accelerated digitalisation processes in other businesses, the retail industry has been having a hard time in 2020.

What are their chances to make their clients gravitate back to them in the upcoming 2021?

Reducing friction with technology

The e-commerce sector heading in the upward trajectory comes as no surprise when malls have been shut and many high street stores, including London, vanished from the clients’ landscape. 

What’s more, the phenomenon of social selling comes in line with the online shopping boom. People no longer tap into their favourite social app for a getaway or communicating with friends, but also to buy what they need right there.

If we think about it, the solution for these socially distanced times is technology. And big players in the retail industry already recognized this opportunity.

Virtual and contactless experience 

We took a deep dive into the latest Raconteur's "Future of Retail" report, and we found out what is already happening and the predictions for the upcoming years.

That said, retailers are in a transition phase of reinventing their physical premises with digital innovation.

For instance, companies such as Diesel or L'Oréal have implemented virtual showrooms with the help of virtual and augmented reality "where it's possible to try on items virtually and test them on the skin to see how they look: a digital representation of the physical world."

Moreover, reopening store premises (especially before Christmas to drive more revenue) forms an excellent opportunity to use data and artificial intelligence. China strikes as a game-changing example, with Burberry's first social retail store in Shenzhen. Their customers use their most popular messaging app – WeChat, to share product details with their friends:

"Every item in-store has a tag with a QR code; scan them for more storytelling. Each customer is also given a playful animal character via Snapchat that evolves as they walk around the store." – as we can find in the "High-touch future of touchless retail" article.

On the other side of the World, in Berlin, Nike's flagship store utilized 3D cameras and custom software to recognize shoppers as they enter the premises. Sounds like a scene from the "Minority report" movie? This is real!

Rossmann GO – cashierless shopping

Recently, the largest drugstore chain in Europe, Rossmann, introduced a milestone update in the Polish version of their mobile app.

With this release, customers can reduce touching to an absolute minimum. All you need to do is scan barcodes of products on the store shelves and throw them directly into your bag. After scanning, you can look at the shopping list displayed in the app to check whether everything is fine, and you didn't scan anything twice by accident.

Handy enough, discounts for selected products go through automatically. 

And what about the payment? Well, you don't even have to approach a till. All you need to do is to pay for those products directly from your smartphone. However, there's a second option – you can finalize your shopping at the self-service checkout; we scan the QR code of our purchases displayed on the smartphone screen with a scanner placed under the cash register.

Empik – mobile self-check-out

Another example also comes from Poland. This dominant commercial chain offering books, music, photo services, press, and stationery also moved towards the future of retail. 

Although the lockdown forced Empik to eventually close down a few stores (out of nearly 300 premises), they invested heavily in digitalisation

With Empik Premium and Empik Premium Free (launched in September 2020) apps, it brings a Pay&Go service to the table. It works pretty much the same way as the upgraded Rossmman GO app, which means that you can walk into the Empik store, scan your desired products, and pay for them with your mobile device. Totally cashier-less.

By Appointment Only – managing shopping with care

Focusing on customers' concerns and needs is crucial more than ever for each brand in the industry. Delivering touchless retail is a solution in germaphobic times.

To look after their health and safety, people reduced their onsite shopping activities to absolute necessities, and they're susceptible to retailers' safety measures.

This is where Headchannel's client discovered a mission to complete. By Appointment Only app creates a way for retailers to protect their customers. 

How does it work?

Putting yourself in customer shoes again – with this piece of software, you can book an appointment to do some shopping in a store that is a part of this environment. Once retailers advertise their free time slots (when their store is ready to let customers in), you know when it's the best time to schedule your shopping, in real-time.

It's a win-win situation, both for a retail manager and a customer. The customer can schedule shopping with peace of mind that it's not going to involve navigating in the sea of other shoppers. On the other hand, the retail manager can stay on top of managing his store's capacity.

Why is it safer than regular shopping?

Not only, the number of people in-store is limited, but each new customer has to go through the COVID-19 screening check. When it turns out that a person is infected, there's no chance to enter the store.

This way, again, retailers and customers are equally beneficial – both sides know for sure that the particular store is a safe place to shop.

The future of retail is coming

All in, after a tough year for retailers, it's time to regroup and reinvent their brick-and-mortar stores with the use of the latest technology. Some companies, like Nike, Burberry's, Rossmann, or Empik, are at the forefront of changes, others are halfway there, and the rest needs to catch up at speed.

How not to be left behind? Teaming up with a software development company to work on an app that will help win customers back comes as the wisest way to go.

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