Amazon recently released Amazon Flow with some fanfare. Instead of having to scan barcodes, users of the Amazon app can now use the camera on their mobile to recognize products visually. While this image recognition capability has been around for some time in apps like SnapTell or Pic2Shop to scan books and CDs (which we all just download now anyway, right?), Amazon appears to have established a larger database of images for products that go beyond books and audio recordings. Now it’s possible to add items to an Amazon eCommerce cart without even scanning a barcode.
How can a traditional retailer compete with the ongoing headline grabbing and constant additions to the Amazon technology arsenal? There are certainly many excellent technological and operational answers that retailers are implementing, but why not bring some of the unique new tools being built to improve retailer eCommerce business into the store to enhance the customer experience?
One key strength of retail stores that is coming to the fore in 2014 is the unique experiences provided in stores. One of the challenges in providing a tremendous customer experience is the incredible amount of information available to everyone. With online resources, an unprecedented amount of product information is available to consumers, and they use it. It’s increasingly difficult for store associates to provide value and a great experience to clients who enter the store with access to the Internet in their pocket. It only makes sense to provide tools to store associates to level the playing field.
There are some unique services available to eCommerce retailers that could be used to advantage by store staff when a customer comes to visit a store. Consider just two examples:
Furniture - Everyone has gone furniture shopping at some time or another, and has made the trek to the store with measuring tape in hand, trying to pick the perfect bookshelf, chair, or table for their home. Most of us now take a photo of the room we are looking to decorate for a point of reference as part of the shopping excursion. What if the consumer could pick a product and then drop a realistic looking three dimensionally rendered version of that product into their own picture of their home? Move it around the room? Change the colour? Cimagine provides just such a solution to retailers. Why not put that same functionality on tablets in store? Clients could share their home photos with talented decorators for a consultative discussion on which products would suit their home. The decorators could then share the photos with their best furniture options in them for the client to review at their leisure or for them to share with friends for input. The same tool could well be used for home consultations.
Fashion - One of the biggest challenges around shopping for shoes and clothing online is sizing. Everyone knows that standard sizing is tough enough in a single store let alone across all banners and manufacturers, there are a number of online add-ons competing to make it an easier task for retailers to give consumers the right fit and the best style.
True Fit is a sizing plugin that allows users to enter in their sizes of their favourite shirts, pants, and shoes. Using that information against a cross reference of many brands and products allows True Fit to highlight products that are a good fit given your size and body type. The plugin will even suggest the right size for the consumer given their profile information.
Dressipi provides a slightly different service. Dressipi allows women to develop their own Fashion Fingerprint that highlights the right sizes and styles for them to wear across a range of brands. The site then provides a range of products on the Dressipi site pulled from retailer sites that suit them to help narrow the purchasing effort.
Both of these services provide capabilities that could be easily leveraged within a store environment by savvy store associates. What if store associates could pull up a shopper’s profile and have a better idea of their sizes from True Fit? Less time in the dressing room, less looking for sizes for the customer. What if store associates could see the styles that Dressipi recommends? Less time trying to figure out what styles may flatter the customer; and the potential to get them more items they like more quickly.
Both the furniture and fashion examples highlight the new sorts of tools to which consumers are just beginning to get exposed. Why not take advantage of those tools to give associates the opportunity to provide real value? It’s an achievable goal, and with a few other enablers, these associates can make these transactions seem magical by pushing items from these tools right into a POS transaction on the tablet without scanning a single item, take payment and send the clients on their way. Sounds like more fun than shopping online!