The revolution that data-centric tools will bring to retail will be something that professionals and enthusiasts in this field would be keenly watching. Early this year, at a keynote speech at the National Retail Federation (NRF), conference, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich had pointed out how innovative retailers like Alibaba are empowering customers to use virtual reality to shop anywhere in the world without leaving their home. Virtual reality will help customers and retailers use data and analytics to maximize investment and impact in retail. According to Michelle Tinsley, Director of Mobility & Secure Payments in Retail Solutions Division at Intel, this could be a game changer.
“VR [virtual reality] -based technology, which has the potential to provide benefits for both consumers and retailers,” Tinsley said. “Intel has been collaborating with ShopperMX on a solution known as the TheHIVE (high immersion virtual experience), a Windows-based, 3D virtual reality solution with networked components that allow for a never-before-seen immersive experience. Shoppers can now feel as if they are in a specific room in a house where they can place and remove products, and merchants can do virtual walkthroughs of store layouts and merchandising. This has taken store re-layout decisions from three to six months, to one week.”
Smart scanning solutions are also enabling consumers to have their feet or body scanned in 3D to provide custom fit shoes and clothes. Once that information has been captured, it can also be used to generate a list of retailers and products that provide a similar fit. This is a huge boon to retailers as well since it eliminates the many purchases returned due to inaccurate sizing or from not meeting expectations.
Ray Hartjen, Director of Marketing at Retailnext too agreed that virtual reality and its cousin augmented reality will continue to grow in the coming year. Other technologies gathering interest include in-store, connected displays and kiosks like those popping up in quick service restaurants, and smart mirrors and other connected devices in stores. Whether it’s with a shopper’s own connected mobile device or a device of the store, it’s essential to provide a connected experience. Shoppers are demanding it, and they have very little patience or tolerance for retailers that don’t ‘get it.’
Gary Yeh, Product Manager at IEI Integration, pointed out that, in effect, all smart devices need to be easy to use and closer to human behaviors. Especially, how to use the multi- function devices and the consumer behavior towards it is very important. For example, someone would try the smart mirrors once since it is new and he hasn’t seen it before, but would he want to try it every time?
“We (IEI + QNAP) are developing a new smart device with intelligent voice control named AfuBot,” Yeh said. “You can chat with it, discuss with it, even it can help you to search and buy things online. In your home, it is the best butler, in the store it can be a special waitress in every table. We [also] think there are few solutions such as UHF solution and behavior predicting software for customers who are using or trying products in the retail store. IEI imports some UHF solution real cases such as clothing store, factory and vehicle parking for asset control and inventory management. It also has security alarm function.”
Ralf Kodritsch, Director and Segment Manager of RFID Solutions at NXP Semiconductors said smart shelves are another means to increase inventory accuracy and improve shopping experience.
“These intelligent shelves allow to continuously check the items’ position and provide alarms when items are misplaced,” Kodritsch said. “Such shelves can also be equipped with electronic shelf labels, whose display content (the price of the item) can be easily changed depending on market dynamics. Should another store or online channel offer the same item at lower prices, the retailer can swiftly react to that. In addition, the electronic shelf label may contain an NFC tag, by tapping it, the consumer can get product and brand information of the item of interest.”