Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the newmarketbuilders blog.
While the rise of online shopping has transformed the retail world over the last 15 years, the next 10 will see "a total reversal," with technology enabling "rich, three-dimensional in-store experiences for customers."
That's the view of Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, the CEO of apparel start-up, Hointer. Although Hointer's robot-powered, mobile-centric apparel stores have created a buzz, Dr. Shouraboura's overarching goal is to offer a solution that helps brick & mortar stores become more efficient, rather than to become a branded retail chain. With three located in Seattle and Silicon Valley, a few more will open in major cities to serve as labs that let brands and retailers "see exactly how it works and how it would apply to their brand."
The labs will also explore other solutions to redefine the in-store experience.
In an interview with newmarketbuilders, Dr. Shouraboura, formerly vice president, global supply chain and fulfillment platform at Amazon, noted that for many categories such as apparel, electronics and jewelry, "the in-store experience is actually better." Now that shoppers have been educated on how to shop online and via mobile devices, they are primed to look at physical retail in a new way.
"I remember my early days at Amazon, when it was hard to convince customers to give their credit card numbers online or use the technology," remarks Dr. Shouraboura. "Now, the customers who come into my store are completely ready for that. They all pull out their mobile devices. They all know how to download apps. They all know how to tap items. They all know how to check out. It's just so natural to them."
At a Hointer, a shopper scans a QR code on a pair of jeans and enters their size. Within 30 seconds, an automated robotic process delivers a pair through a chute to their dressing room.
Hointer's "micro-warehouse" enables each location to carry a wide selection of inventory to compete with online's endless aisles. While reducing labor costs, the automation also makes better use of space and improves the experience, particularly wait times in dressing rooms.
"The technology knows all of the items and how to retrieve them and it prioritizes tasks," says Dr. Shouraboura. "It's a very efficient, very compact warehouse that has the ability to respond to a customer request very quickly."
Continuously recording what items shoppers try on, discard and touch also provides real-time data that hasn't' been captured at retail before. She adds, "We aggregate data but also maintain it at a granular level, so we can provide customer-specific data to our associates."
Dr. Shouraboura envisions a future in which "we'll see many different product presentations and of course all of it will be omni-channel. You'll have full access to the inventory, but it'll be thrilling in three dimensions with five senses. Touch, smell, feel. It's going to take a lot of people and innovation to figure out how to make the store really exciting, step by step. We want our children to go to the store and have fun. Not just shop. Fun."
When will the majority of shoppers be open to a mobile-centric in-store retail experience?