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For retailers, that perception is Pizza store layout simulation, and fast. Keeping up with technological advancements is less of an option now and more par for the course.
While Amazon is an obvious leader when it comes to retail tech — from Amazon Go to the constant expansions of the Alexa ecosystem and ever more intimate delivery techniques — nearly every sector of retail has become more involved with perfecting the technology that most customers expect by now.
From giants to smaller companies, there are a lot of experiments in the works. Even smaller players like Zara are investing in artificial intelligence and other tech solutions to solve day-to-day issues.
With experience-driven technology like augmented and virtual reality, the goals tend to be different, but the important thing is to make sure tech isn't being added in just for the sake of having something shiny to show off, according to Steve White, vice president, west retail lead, commerce strategist at Publicis.
Part of that has to do with the lack of a helpful use case for the technology, although augmented reality is much further ahead in that regard than virtual is.
In particular, beauty retailers and furniture retailers seem to have found genuine uses for augmented reality that help customers rather than help the store look more up-to-date. Similarly, furniture retailers like Wayfair and Ikea have turned to the technology to take away some of the barriers for testing out furniture, namely: You'll see the upsell from that.
Walmart announced last year that it was testing the technology to help train store associatesand companies like InContext are using it to bring mock warehouses into the virtual world.
Decisions about inventory and product placement, as well as how customers will react to a new form of packaging, can all more or less be made in a virtual store setting, according to InContext's Chief Technology Officer Tracey Wiedmeyer.
He noted that traditional methods of testing in-store changes, like rolling out the concept to a small number of stores at a time, could end up costing retailers both time and money that VR could cut down on. Wiedmeyer also sees a future where shoppers could walk through a virtual aisle tailored directly to their preferences, based on past purchases and possible future purchases.
A future where VR is more ubiquitously adopted for shopping could be a long time coming, though, according to Jon Reily, vice president and fellow, commerce strategy, Publicis. While Amazon Go is the obvious forerunner in the cashierless checkout spacethe movement has also spawned efforts from Walmart which have since ended and even Dollar General, which recently announced it was testing the feature.
Being able to order on mobile, pick up mobile orders in stores, and go through the entire shopping experience without standing in line — or even talking to anyone if the customer doesn't want to — is becoming a focus for many retailers, especially grocery stores and mass merchants, where both customers and checkout lines are often numerous.
That's also led retailers to adopt easier methods of collection for online and mobile orders, like Walmart's buy online, pickup in store BOPIS pickup towersdesigned to eliminate the need for customers to wait in a customer service line to grab an order.
Even coupons have moved to digital: Target, for one, is moving its coupons and loyalty program to mobile in an attempt to make the whole experience digital — no store associate necessary. Technology convenience plays like these are likely on every retailer's mind, but as good as some retailer intentions are, jumping straight into scan-and-go might not be the best move — and it doesn't guarantee that a retailer will be able to stay ahead of Amazon, according to Wiedmeyer.
Wilwerding expects digital checkouts will eventually be spaced throughout stores, and have much more complex capabilities than they currently do — among them, a seamless way for customers to purchase some items in store and have others shipped to their house in the same transaction.
With all the upsides that in-store tech offers, though, the convenience of self-checkout has put some retailers, like Starbucks, in a tough position.
Retailers are implementing technology to help manage inventory problems and train employees on the backend as well — and the opportunities vary from the frontend to the backend. Virtual reality has yet to make a real impact on the individual level on the consumer side, but the technology is more accessible for large companies from a cost perspective.
Even so, virtual reality isn't ubiquitous on the retail backend either. Companies must weigh the costs of the technology against the costs of what they're already doing, and deciding to switch operations over to a digital platform often requires "organizational change," Wiedmeyer said.
Endless aisle — the idea that a customer can digitally look through a retailer's entire inventory without the retailer having to stock everything — is an example of that, and could lead to more retailers positioning themselves as showroom-style locations.
When I'm standing in a store I might see a select grouping of items, but digital is the perfect way to further amplify what could be offered and try to save that sale or ensure that I get that sale.
Electronic signage that includes much more detailed information than just the price could be on the horizon, but the real barrier for retailers is "their ability to sync all of those data sources and databases in the backend and make it bring that experience to life on the front end," White said.
Face time Talking about technology is hard to do without talking about employees — the great debate over whether robots will replace store associates and whether customers would even notice if they did seems never to end.
But for the most part, technology in stores seems focused on either making employee jobs easier or freeing up employees to perform more meaningful tasks. That doesn't necessarily spell the end of customer interaction. Sephora's store associates serve more as beauty advisors than anything else, and they're there to help out customers who want a one-on-one consultation.
At the same time, though, tablets in stores allow shoppers to help themselves — a phenomenon that appeals to a lot of people, especially a large number who don't see the value in store associates.View Essay - Pizza Store Layout Simulation Paper Week 2 from MBA OPS at University of Phoenix.
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