Every retailer faces competition in an effort to get more customers through the aisles of their store. Selling the same products as the local convenience store on the next block has meant many retailers have focused on offering the best price possible as an incentive to get shoppers through their doors. Since the evolution of ecommerce, more and more people are turning
to the Internet not only for the perceived savings, but also for the relaxed shopping experience. Retailers now realise that it is not just the cheapest price that will get their customers to return, they need to make the whole shopping experience as easy and as enjoyable as possible.
There will always be people that want to see and feel something before they buy and this is what many of the world’s largest retailers are focusing on in an effort to increase sales and lead their stores into the new decade. They are also taking some of the lessons learned in the ecommerce world and using these to help increase customer satisfaction and ultimately retention in their stores.
They are doing this with a new technology called the assisted shopper. Though the idea is simple retailers believe that assisted shopping may hold the key to their success over the coming years. The cornerstone of the assisted shopper is a small and portable handheld computer, which customers check out once they enter the store, it is then used to scan each item before it is bagged and added to their cart. Instantly you can see that queues will be reduced and eventually removed completely.
Another important aspect of the assisted shopper is the integration with the stores existing loyalty program, once you join your local store's loyalty program, they will then have a full record of every purchase you will make from that day on. When these loyalty programs are used in combination with the assisted shopper the retailer has a powerful marketing tool which they can put directly into the hands of their customers and using their purchase history they can discount items that they have bought in the past; increasing the likelihood they will buy again, they can also tailor special offers once they reach certain parts of the store. For instance, if the shopper enters the fresh bread aisle the retailer can offer instant discounts on certain breads as they walk down the aisle, making the shopper more willing to purchase, while the retailer gets to move perishable stock before it spoils and has to be thrown away.
The assisted shopper can help to bring retailers in line with many of the advantages online shopping can offer. Though these handhelds are still only in the testing phase in a number of selected outlets, the signs are good, customers are happy with the service these handhelds can offer and the retailers are happy because the tailored offers have helped to increase impulse buys which in turn has helped to increase bag sizes on checkout. Instead of having an attendant on every till, they now only need a small number of representatives who can manage the checkout process for all their shoppers which will help to lower staffing costs and increase staff productivity.
Though these handhelds have only recently been introduced into the market place we may soon see them become obsolete with many customers favouring their smart phones, with the help of an app their cell phone will soon be able to accomplish the same goal as these handhelds giving the retailer the extra advantage of being able to send more promotional material and special offers directly to their phone, once the uptake of cell phones in the shopping process becomes more wide spread we will see a number of further innovations. These may include a shopping list app which will help to decide what they will need from the store, while also alerting the store to what’s on the list so they can ensure that every item is on the shelves and is waiting to be added it their shopping cart.
About the author
Neil Jones has been involved in the barcoding and data capture industry since 97. In that period he has owned and run several successful businesses in his field of expertise. With his latest business venture emobilescan, who’s aim is to become one of Europe’s largest on line retailers of barcode scanners and handheld computers to the AIDC industry.