Automated retail, and especially, frictionless checkout, is the future of retail shopping. No one wants long checkout lines and retailers are looking for ways to cut costs and compete with Amazon.
Without closing process gaps that inhibit customer journeys, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for brick and mortar stores to compete with their eCommerce counterparts effectively. The long-term viability of such businesses depends on their effective use of automation and AI to offer a superior shopping experience and drive more foot traffic to their stores.
What’s Next in Automated Retail?
Automated retail, powered by computer vision, IoT, and Power over Ethernet (PoE), is also going to help cut staffing costs. For example, Amazon Go stores, which lead the way in retail automation, have fewer employees than traditional brick and mortar retailers.
It’s about utilizing smart, connected digital systems to retail automation the entire or some key aspects of the retail buying experience. The general idea is to merge the physical and digital shopping experiences by leveraging “cashierless” checkout or self-check kiosk technologies. You could also do away with checkout. In automated retail, PoE devices, sensors, cameras, mobile apps, and smart shelves are critical enablers of superior customer experiences.
According to a McKinsey report, Amazon Go can expect up to 10% growth in sales revenue with the adoption of frictionless shopping technologies. The high return on investment (ROI) partly results from improved transacting traffic as in-store wait times come down significantly. Also, the retailer leverages automation to extract customer insights that help to personalize offerings and optimize assortments.
Retailers that aren’t already adopting automation are missing out on substantial cost cuts and top-line growth, asserts the report.
Automated Retail and Frictionless Shopping
So, how does Amazon Go deliver frictionless shopping? It’s by using automation to reverse the typical brick and mortar shopping experience, addressing key customer pain points. Traditionally, buyers have to walk in, pick items, and then wait in long queues to check out. But today, they’re accomplishing much more before or while entering than exiting the store.
The customer journey begins with downloading the Amazon Go app and supplying payment information. Then, the customer scans the app to enter the store. When done shopping, the buyer simply walks out.
By eliminating the checkout queue, the need to scan items, and interactions with sales representatives and cashiers, the retail chain minimizes friction in store. Computer vision and strategically-located cameras and sensors help to identify each person and what they’re doing while inside the store.
Every time a customer picks an item from a shelf, the system identifies and adds it to a virtual cart. So, when the buyer walks out, the app charges their Amazon account and sends an email receipt.
Unfortunately, traditional retailers don’t have the technology necessary to deliver such customer-obsessed experiences in-store.
Retail Automation is Being Driven by Busier Lives
But as retail automation gradually catches on, customers are looking forward to enjoying a highly streamlined and personalized experience whenever they go shopping. They want speed and convenience, without the complications of cashier interactions or long checkout queues. They also require retailers to stay in touch with their unique needs.
Similarly, future shoppers want to be able to order online, perhaps via a mobile app, from the comfort of their home or office. They may then go to collect the item in-store. They’re asking for a quick, painless experience and seamless transition between offline and online. Such a customer journey involves no waiting in checkout lines or aimlessly walking down every grocery aisle searching for something to buy.
“Retailers in general are pivoting to customer-obsessed, omnichannel experiences. This means being able to order online and pick up in-store or returning an item bought online to a store, so a lot of back-end automation — software, mostly — helps these processes”. — J. P. Gownder, Forrester.
PoE has a vital role to play in the delivery of the frictionless automated retail experiences that customers expect today and in the future. That’s because the technology can power most of the interconnected IoT devices involved in the setup, from smart sensors to cameras. With the advent of IEEE 802.3bt, it’s now possible to include powered devices (PD) requiring as much as 90W.
For starters, PoE sensors are essential to the elimination of the checkout process, which breaks the customer journey up. They’re part of the personal identification system that ensures that you’re billing the right buyer for each item picked from a shelf. This automation eliminates the need for customers to interact with cashiers at checkout.
Also, you need to know a lot about each of your customer’s purchase behavior and preferences to provide a personalized shopping experience. You might require hundreds of PoE-powered cameras at different locations in the store to identify each person that walks in and see what they’re doing.
PoE sensors also facilitate buyer journey personalization, such as in the identification of individual products by measuring their weight. By a technique called “sensor fusion,” you can collect as much unique customer data as possible during the shopping process.
The data that your PoE sensors and cameras collect during each shopping session forms the basis for in-depth customer behavior analytics. You may then use deep learning algorithms to predict future buyer preferences and present relevant promotions and tailored product assortment to each shopper.
Since the PoE-powered system is tracking the consumer’s buying history, it can automatically trigger subscriptions for repeat orders. It can also create wish lists to track products the customer may opt to buy in the future.
PoE and the Future of Shopping
With PoE-powered, Bluetooth-enabled beacons and user identification technology, you can deliver personalized offers to each customer as they walk through the aisles. It’s even possible to integrate the trackers with an in-store map that allows you to route shoppers to particular points depending on their location in real time. Thus, PoE is vital to the provision of a highly engaging customer experience in-store.
Brick and mortar retailers are losing customers to their online competitors for their inability to deliver frictionless shopping. Fortunately, they can turn their fortunes around and survive the inevitable future of retail. Transition to automated retail, albeit at scale, is possible with the use of PoE-powered sensors and cameras along with computer vision and machine learning algorithms. This way, retailers can give their customers the efficiency of completing a transaction and quickly walking out with the right product.