Robots and holograms? Are US retailers losing focus?

June 26, 2015 by guest author, Brandon Harp


Guest Post – Emily Carroll, Prendi

With the evolution of technological innovations, consumers are becoming increasingly connected and informed, with high expectations of the retail experience. As this continues to evolve, retailers must recognize the shifting role of the brick-and-mortar store. No longer is the brick-and-mortar store enough on it’s own, nor is online. Retailers need to bridge the gap between these mediums, to provide a true omni-channel experience which consumers are demanding.

David Lloyd, CEO of Intelliresponse, recently wrote an article on Kiosk Marketplace, which I strongly recommend you read because, put simply, he nailed it. He expresses that in order to bridge the gap between online and brick-and-mortar, retailers need to connect with consumers through familiar communication tools. “So many retailers have begun to experiment with different technology kiosks, robots and holograms.” He goes on to say this not the way forward for the retail store of tomorrow. Instead, “a more common and relatable robot is already in the pockets of most consumers, the smartphone.”

Hold on, robots and holograms in American retailers?

Firstly, I love keeping up to date with digital solutions in America. American retailers are so advanced compared to Australian retailers in regards to the implementation of digital solutions in-store. Don’t get me wrong, some early adopters are doing it well in Australia, though America is leading the way. But… robots and holograms in American retailers? Really? Maybe some day in the future, but consumers aren’t ready for that yet. Consumers are demanding touchscreens, interactivity, relevant information at their fingertips – technology which they are intuitively comfortable with. C’mon American retailers, let’s not overstimulate consumers and potentially scare them off. Let’s connect with consumers their way.

As David mentioned, over two thirds of the U.S. population now own a smartphone. To add to that, there are 31 million connected mobile devices in Australia and growing. This gives retailers a huge opportunity to provide substantial, relevant and timely information to consumers direct to their fingertips. How? By integrating commercial screens (whether that be video wallscollage walls or touchscreen configurators), along with NFC or iBeacon technology. NFC and iBeacon technologies allow mobile devices to interact with physical environments, providing information direct to the consumers device. The consumer can then share online, browse more information or even control the content on your screens from their personal device.

Additionally, consumers can have the opportunity to opt-in to smart-device communications from retailers. This can enhance personalization to the consumer’s in-store experience, for example by greeting them when they enter the store or providing information on their recent purchases or searches. Or, if the opt-in option isn’t favourable, then in-store touchscreen solutions can still provide that personalization without the consumer having to give out any of their private information. Plus, in-store digital solutions can provide extensive information to the consumer at the simple, and intuitive, point of touch.

David described how consumers don’t want to have to wait around or try to search for a sales associate to ask a simple question. “For many consumers, this can be ‘the ditching point’, a time when they reevaluate their shopping impulse and weigh if the item is really worth the investment of time and money.”

Counteract this issue with a touchscreen configurator in-store. A configurator is a touchscreen and interactive application which allows consumers to control their own experience. Consumers can quickly and easily navigate large volumes of products and information, personalize their product or even build their own product, all with up-to-date, real-time information.

Implementing this technology allows your sales associates to focus on customer service, over product knowledge. David was exactly right in saying “sales associates will now be free to deal with more intricate issues in-store.” To add to this, sales associates can also focus on providing a relaxing and/or indulgent experience for the consumer. This type of service will go a long way, encouraging the consumer to stay in-store longer. Plus, use the technology out-of-hours as a tool to educate your staff on new products or services.

With recent advancements in technology, retailers have been provided with an opportunity to engage with today’s connected consumer. This can be done by the omni-channel approach, by bridging the gap between online and brick-and-mortar. But please, don’t go over the top. Having an in-store robot or hologram will sure be a wow-factor, but it doesn’t provide the type of experience which promises to bring consumers back. Instead focus on providing relevant, personalized and engaging experiences to consumers through the simple point of touch.

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