The rumors of traditional retail’s death have been greatly exaggerated
Not your mom’s mom- and-pop shop
One of the big challenges consumers face when purchasing from a brickand-mortar store is nding the product you want.
Look around Singapore and you’ll see empty shopping malls everywhere. And with big retailers like Borders, HMV, and most recently Toys’R’Us declaring bankruptcy, it’s easy to assume the days of traditional brick-and-mortar shopping are over. But if that’s true, then why did Amazon, one of the biggest online retailers out there, just buy a strictly brick-and-mortar supermarket chain, Whole Foods, for US$13.7 billion?
The supermarket shopping experience has remained basically unchanged since 1937 when Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping trolley. Prior to that, shoppers were limited to purchasing only as much as they could carry in their hands. But the simple shopping trolley changed the entire user experience, increasing consumption and even the type of items that could be purchased.
80 years later, forward-thinking retailers like Amazon are ready to revolutionize the traditional shopping experience again and, just like the introduction of the shopping trolley, it all starts with integrating new technology into stores.
Augmented Reality is your real life search lter
One of the big challenges consumers face when purchasing from a brick-and-mortar store is nding the product you want. Unlike online shopping, there’s no search bar to easily locate what you need, and store maps can be ine cient and confusing.
Augmented reality could be the answer to that. Imagine going to a supermarket and being handed a pair of augmented reality glasses. As you walk down the aisles, you could choose to lter the view on your glasses to highlight foods that t your specic dietary requirements, like gluten-free, low-sodium or Halal products, while other packaging that doesn’t match your criteria fades into the background. You could even upload a recipe to your headset and your glasses would show you all of the specic ingredients required, or suggest alternatives if what you’re looking for isn’t available.
While this sounds like tech from the far-future, we actually already have AR software that can do this. Samsung’s Bixby and Google’s Lens AR are able to accurately identify products just by looking at them through your smartphone’s camera lens. They can do more than just identify a product though. Instead of reading the ne print on packaging labels, you could look at a product through your AR camera lens and it could display all of the information you need, from calorie content and country of production to user reviews and even suggested food and wine pairings.
Fashion retailers like Uniqlo are also experimenting with AR in the form of full-length AR mirrors to make trying on clothes faster and more convenient. Instead of queuing up for dressing rooms, shoppers can use an AR mirror to see what an outt looks like. The mirror could also suggest outts based on styles you like or to t your body-type, acting as a personal shopping consultant and stylist.
No more lines
What about whwhen you’re done shopping and it’s time to queue up and pay? While cashless payments have made checkouts a lot more convenient, Amazon has an even better answer: just walk out.
Since 2015 Amazon has opened ten brick-and-mortar bookstores, with plans for another six on the way, and one convenience store selling groceries and cooked food. While Amazon’s stores may look traditional, everything inside is state of the art. Items are selected based on online review metrics and even arranged and displayed according to algorithms that suggest the best in-store placement. In the Amazon Go convenience store, when you want to buy something, there’s no checkout line to queue up in. Instead, customers simply tap their smartphones on a turnstile as they walk into the store, which logs them into the store’s network and connects to their Amazon account through an app.
The system uses machine learning, sensors and artificial intelligence to track items customers pick up, which are added to the virtual cart on their app. Putting an item back on the shelf removes it from their cart. When you’re done shopping, you just walk out, in fact, Amazon calls the technology ‘Just Walk Out’. A receipt is then sent to your email. Just Walk Out is currently in testing by Amazon employees, with a public roll out expected early next year.