Stitch World - - RETAIL TECHNOLOGY -

It is im­por­tant for a re­tailer to un­der­stand what the cus­tomer seeks and how to try to ex­ceed his ex­pec­ta­tions. Cus­tomer’s ex­pec­ta­tions of how they should be able to in­ter­act with re­tail­ers has changed dra­mat­i­cally in the last few years. Driven by an in­creas­ingly con­nected world that knows no time con­straints for online shop­ping, cus­tomers are de­mand­ing the same ac­cess to a re­tailer’s ser­vice and sup­port op­er­a­tions. Divya Bhutani, a stu­dent of Masters of Fash­ion Tech­nol­ogy, NIFT Delhi un­cov­ers the dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy em­pow­er­ing the func­tion of sales as­sis­tance in re­tail.

In a tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced dig­i­tal world, re­tail­ers and brands try to en­hance cus­tomers’ ex­pe­ri­ence dig­i­tally based on their in­ter­ests. Im­prov­ing sales as­sis­tance can mould a shop­per’s ex­pe­ri­ence into a good one. Today we can see a com­pletely new gen­er­a­tion of shop­pers who ac­tu­ally de­mand less fric­tion and more con­ve­nience in their shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence. Sales as­so­ciates are the peo­ple that com­mu­ni­cate with shop­pers and en­sure a smooth sales process and process trans­ac­tions. These sales as­sis­tants can also in­flu­ence the pur­chase de­ci­sion of a cus­tomer. A good in­ter­ac­tion also re­sults in a re­visit of the cus­tomer to the store. Help­ing cus­tomers in find­ing what they are look­ing for, de­scrib­ing prod­uct fea­tures, demon­strat­ing their use, show­ing var­i­ous mod­els and colours, han­dling re­turns and ex­changes of mer­chan­dise and main­tain­ing stock level, are the main re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of a sales as­sis­tant.

Smart phone apps ben­e­fit­ing re­tail­ers

To en­sure max­i­mum cus­tomer en­gage­ment, re­tail stores have to make sure that all the aces are in their place. In order to meet the de­mands of the cus­tomer, re­tail­ers have built in­creas­ingly com­plex web­sites to mar­ket and sup­port their of­fer­ing, but while do­ing so, they have ob­scured the abil­ity of the cus­tomers to ac­cess that in­for­ma­tion quickly and eas­ily. The end re­sult is that the cus­tomers look and pos­si­bly pur­chase from an­other com­pany that is able to meet their needs of in­stant ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion and res­o­lu­tion.

The idea of apps in smart­phone sim­pli­fies the com­plex­i­ties brought up by web­sites dur­ing shop­ping. As a shop­per al­ways car­ries his smart­phone along with him, he en­sures that all the in­for­ma­tion and sup­port are de­liv­ered to him in the pre­dicted way and he is ben­e­fited from the same.

An app named Tar­get (for re­tailer Tar­get) helps cus­tomers find the right prod­uct with its best My List Fea­ture. Cus­tomers can make a list be­fore they shop and the app will search for the prod­uct’s avail­abil­ity and aisled lo­ca­tion. It also in­cludes a store lo­ca­tor, bar­code scan­ner to get de­tails of prod­ucts and coupons for daily deals.

Sim­i­larly, an­other app named Amer­i­can Ap­parel App solves so many queries of a cus­tomer. The app Amer­i­can Ap­parel scans bar­codes and im­ages to get full ac­cess to full out­fits, chang­ing colour lines, and also pro­vides ad­di­tional videos and fash­ion

An op­ti­cal head­mounted dis­play de­signed in the shape of eye­glasses is a game-chang­ing gad­get for re­tail tech­nol­ogy. With this gad­get, the wearer can com­mu­ni­cate with the in­ter­net via the voice com­mands.

advice which can be shared with one’s friends. Still a bal­ance needs to be main­tained be­tween a com­pletely au­to­mated and hu­man- as­sisted ser­vice for the re­tail industry… Cus­tomers, how­ever, still de­sire for per­sonal cus­tomer ser­vice. The fact that still holds true is that an all au­to­mated de­vice can­not com­pletely re­place the value that a hu­man touch gen­er­ates. Thus, hav­ing a com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy with hu­man touch is the ideal so­lu­tion. Nowa­days, be­cause of in­creas­ing di­ver­sity of prod­ucts, cus­tomers of­ten seek as­sis­tance in lo­cat­ing a prod­uct or get­ting de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about a pre­ferred prod­uct. With the ad­vent of the dig­i­tal era, re­tail­ers of­ten find them­selves in a fix try­ing to get an ideal mix of tech­nol­ogy and the hu­man fac­tor.

Smart glasses – Wear­able tech be­come sales as­sis­tants

An op­ti­cal head-mounted dis­play de­signed in the shape of eye­glasses is a gamechang­ing gad­get for re­tail tech­nol­ogy. With this gad­get, the wearer can com­mu­ni­cate with the in­ter­net via the voice com­mands. When a shop­per browses through the web­site, a click-to- call but­ton takes him/ her to a vir­tual store. The cus­tomer can then con­nect with the sales rep­re­sen­ta­tive at the store. They switch their smart glasses on and in a few sec­onds, they can see the prod­ucts through the eyes of the sales per­son who show­cases the prod­ucts via real-time video while talk­ing. Ear­lier in 2015, these glasses failed the re­tail test be­cause of the crit­i­cism faced to make them a cus­tomer’s de­vice but this time in 2017, they have come back with a bang. Also, this time, the glasses seem to be em­brac­ing those which are less glam­orous, but which are ar­guably of more prac­ti­cal use. The dis­play res­o­lu­tion of smart glasses is equiv­a­lent to the res­o­lu­tion of a 25- inch- high def­i­ni­tion screen from 8 feet away. They can be con­trolled by voice recog­ni­tion which one trig­gers by say­ing ‘OK’. Also, the touch pad on the right arm of the smart glass when swiped or tapped will work as an in­put. These smart glasses come with a good full day bat­tery life which can en­hance the cus­tomer’s ex­pe­ri­ence, and can some­time last for hours. One such eye­wear is of­fered by Google, named as Google glass. It of­fers client-spe­cific sug­ges­tions very eas­ily. For ex­am­ple, take Glass’s im­agere­cog­ni­tion abil­ity and link it to a Google ac­count that, in turn, is di­rectly con­nected to your past in­ter­net search his­tory, email, com­ments, prod­uct re­views and Face­book likes. One only needs a Wi- Fi con­nec­tion or Blue­tooth de­vice to make this glass work. For more on Google glass, re­fer this link: https://www. v=Tk­fFWGUisw

Adopt­ing this kind of vir­tual as­sis­tance not only re­sults in sales but also in re­duc­tion in the re­quired num­ber of labour hours by an es­ti­mate of 50 per cent of the to­tal hours needed. The rate of em­ployee theft at re­tail store also sees a drop.

Cal­cu­la­tion of RoI for ba­sic level and ad­vance level of tech­nol­ogy (Smart Glass)

To cal­cu­late Re­turn on In­vest­ment (RoI), the fol­low­ing as­sump­tions have been made. An­nual sales of the re­tail store are as­sumed to be Rs. 50 lakh and Rs. 70 lakh on busy days. The num­ber of sales per­sons work­ing is taken to be 10. Anal­y­sis Thus cal­cu­la­tion of RoI shows that ad­vance tech­nol­ogy can pay for it­self in three years, which is a pos­i­tive sign. While it is true that as­sis­tance in a re­tail store can­not be com­pletely re­placed by the dig­i­tal world, cer­tain in­ter­ven­tion is still nec­es­sary to en­hance the user’s ex­pe­ri­ence. Com­pa­nies like Google and Ama­zon are try­ing to give the best pos­si­ble ex­pe­ri­ence to their cus­tomers. Tech­nolo­gies, if adopted in the req­ui­site man­ner un­der­stand­ing the foot­fall of cus­tomers in the store and type of mer­chan­dise be­ing sold, can give a huge amount of sav­ings. Con­sid­er­ing that RoI cal­cu­la­tion for a new tech­nol­ogy is a must ac­tiv­ity, tak­ing risks at a big level can also re­sult in a down­fall.

THEN: Sales as­sis­tants in store used to help shop­pers in their shop­ping or in tak­ing a de­ci­sion

NOW: Smart glasses en­ables shop­pers to browse through the store vir­tu­ally and get all the in­for­ma­tion needed about the prod­uct

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