Re-invention, and differentiating themselves from competitors, is a powerful compulsion for many contemporary brick-and-mortar businesses. Given the variety of avenues currently available to the customer, in-store retail must now deliver completely redefined standards of convenience and experience to remain relevant. In this context, in-store automation holds the possibility to engage customers like never before. It can provide a shopping experience that combines the benefits of real-world tactile experience with the best of an omnichannel experience.
Enhancing the in-store customer experience through automation is emerging as an exciting new means for retailers to generate competitive differentiation. Creating an immersive in-store experience is one of the surest ways to empower customer engagement initiatives and to generate brand recognition. For retailers, in-store automation represents an innovation that industry leaders and early adopters are already rolling out to tremendous effect. From creating seamless and enhanced experiences that can be integrated with digital channels far more interactively and effectively, to streamlining numerous day-to-day tasks, in-store automation is emerging as a significant strategy for retailers.
New York based fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff was able to link a customer’s in-store fitting room experience to a mobile app, allowing them to save the items they liked using touchscreens, so they can place an order from their mobile device later. Home furnishings giant IKEA use augmented reality (AR) to enable customers to visualize what a piece of furniture would look like in their home, using a smartphone or tablet. Waitrose, one of Britain’s largest supermarket chains, allows customers to self checkout using an app – vastly streamlining their own processes as well as expediting the shopping experience for their customers. Initiatives such as these integrate an in-store experience with e-commerce channels as well as tremendously enhancing the real-world experience itself.
A common cause for customer dissatisfaction is when a desired item is out of stock. Using directional lasers and motion sensors to acquire data in real-time, a retailer can monitor their inventory and regulate restocking, thus reducing customer dissatisfaction as well as being able to identify items that are attracting attention. Walmart has invested in shelf scanning robots to further empower their stores in maintaining up to the minute records of their merchandise as well as being able to identify labeling errors and misplaced items before they result in a negative customer experience or loss to the business. The fully automated Amazon Go store launched in Seattle, in January 2018, is probably one of the more famous instances of retail automation that is currently operational. While the store does have human workers that prepare meal kits, stock shelves, and interact with customers, there are no cashiers or registers for the customer to deal with. The entire customer experience is considerably faster, painless and the business has gained tremendous brand recognition as a result.
Automation will completely transform the in-store shopping experience and give customers a more empowered experience that gives them an unprecedented degree of control. Though the predictions of the demise of brick-and-mortar stores have proved to be off the mark, retailers do need to actively innovate and redefine the experience. Automation provides retailers with a means to deliver highly personalized and convenient service, that can help them to stand apart from their competitors. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Commerce can help retailers create outstanding in-store experiences, integrate the omnichannel experience and unify these with back office operations.