The ru­mors of tra­di­tional re­tail’s death have been greatly ex­ag­ger­ated

Not your mom’s mom- and-pop shop

HWM (Singapore) - - FEATURE -

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 specic 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 specic 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 outt looks like. The mir­ror could also sug­gest outts 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.

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