Beyond the Physical Aisle: Integrating Point-of-sale and virtual shopping

wipro virtual

Abstract
Shoppers today are more interested in experience-based shopping rather than the conventional way. They are more comfortable getting the knowledge about their purchases from their friends on social networks or other online sources, rather than store associates. In such an environment, how can stores ensure that the real estate is utilized in providing more value-driven experiences rather than only driving sales? How can store associates ensure shoppers are provided with complete information about product choices to enable them to purchase wisely?

In response to this, retailers are getting proficient in adopting different sources of order capture to create an “endless aisle” experience for shoppers, circumventing the square footage limitations of physical stores, by providing shoppers with access to their full merchandise lines virtually. An omni-channel approach to merchandizing helps retailers create unique in-store experiences, devoting space and resources to generate sales beyond the physical aisle, without worrying about displaying every available color, size or model of a given product in the store. A personalized blend of a virtual store can also ensure a unique, customized shopping experience for each shopper.
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Introduction

Shoppers today have multiple choices to shop and seek the best assortment, thanks to e-commerce. Shoppers today need not even step into a physical store to buy what they need. They can instead select the items online and get these items delivered delivered right to their doorsteps. In fact, we have now evolved from a 2-to-3 day home delivery cycle to “same day” delivery options and are even talking about ‘predictive shipping’ for customers.

According to a Nielsen study, shoppers visit physical stores less often than before. But, when they do, they are willing to spend more time and money in-store. In order to adapt to this emerging culture, stores need to evolve from being mere ‘stocking centers’ to ‘experience centers’.  A sale per square foot is still a very important metric for the retailer. But retailers are discovering new ways of getting by the smaller square footage and being able to still boost strong sales per square foot.

Retailers are in the process of constantly innovating and implementing capabilities to recognize shoppers, such as beacons, as they enter the store, to offer personalized recommendations to them, and following up with compelling offers. This can be achieved by accurately tracking their shopping behavior during the time they spend in a store and then determining their shopping patterns.

Wi-Fi capability in stores is not only important for shoppers but also for retailers as they can engage shoppers beyond the physical walls in a store. Shoppers can explore a virtual store within a physical store by using a 4D kiosk, allowing them to browse through all the products in a store all while remaining in the comfort of their own home, making the whole process must faster and easier.

These shopper engagement experiences can also be customized based on a shopper’s past purchase patterns. The whole experience of adding these items to the cart and checking out through the kiosk makes it very exciting and engaging for shoppers.

    Stores need to serve as a destination to augment the overall brand experience.

“Allen’s shopping journey on an in-store 4D kiosk navigating through the virtual aisles.”

Let’s look at a scenario where a customer, Allen, walks into a store looking for a leather jacket. Even though he is an avid shopper online, he wants to experience the product in the store before purchasing. He walks into the store to be greeted by the store associate who leads him to the section where he will find the desired leather jacket. Allen realizes that there are not many options to choose from the shelf. So, the store associate then leads him to an experience center within the store, which has individual kiosks. Allen then gets to look at the extended catalog in the 4D kiosk and is overwhelmed with the immersive application.

After finding a jacked he likes in the extended catalog, Allen now wants to try on one of the jackets. On knowing this, the store associate shows Allen the virtual mirror where he tries the different shades of the jacket on after browsing through multiple colors and styles.

The store associate gets to see that Allen’s preference is brown and suggests that he view the full details of the brown jacket. Allen goes through the product details in the 4D kiosk and is able to find out the type of leather that was used to make the jacket, and the number of people who have rated this jacket on various social networks.  

Impressed with the positive ratings the jacket has received, Allen finally makes up his mind to purchase a brown leather jacket and adds it to his virtual cart, to have it delivered straight to his home. Allen then clicks the checkout button which is able to seamlessly transfers the transaction to the in-store Point of Sale (PoS) system and prints a Transaction ID slip for the purchase. Allen displays the transaction slip to the associate, who is able to pull up the basket at a mobile PoS by scanning the transaction ID.

The associate sees that the product is available in a store which can deliver the jacket to Allen by the next day. Allen then asks if he can pay for the same in the store through his new ‘Apple pay’ or not. The associate helps him with a payment option in store. Allen uses his iPhone to complete the payment instantaneously.

Allen’s experience of shopping has been greatly enhanced with mobile and virtual reality technologies. These floor projection techniques being used in-store are becoming increasingly popular among manufacturers of consumer goods and similar products. Retailers can use these innovative displays in their stores to engage with shoppers in unique ways and partner with them in making purchase decisions. These technologies are also very valuable for stores looking to promote a product or launching a new product.

“Associates are no longer ‘Stacking Associates’ but ‘Brand Advocates’.”

It is important to enable and empower store associates with the right technology needed to delight shoppers. A recent research by Deloitte shows that conversion rates increase by 9% when shoppers are assisted by knowledgeable store associates who demonstrate strong inter-personal skills. Increasing technology adoption will help retailers enable their store associates, allowing them to effectively connect with shoppers or with product experts, as necessary, to help them make better and more informed purchase decisions. Retailers, as a result, are changing the way they look at store associates.

Way Forward
Retailers should quickly start adopting new technologies to help provide a more holistic experience and continue to be relevant to shoppers. As the number of interaction points and the gadgets increase, it is important to ensure that the connected in-store experience should also be consistent. Once this is the case, store associates will be able to put these new age technologies Floor Projections, 4D Shopping and Mobile POS to use, setting these stores apart from those that use what will become the “conventional” technologies, like Electronic Shelf Labels, Price Checkers and Self-check outs for enhanced customer satisfaction.

Retailers need to understand that the stores are an integral part of a shopper’s journey in the present omni-channel retailing world.  Expanding beyond the physical aisle is the need of the hour, not just to save the sale, but also to acquire a loyal shopper forever.

References
THE GLOBAL SHIFT IN SHOPPING BEHAVIOR: FEWER SHOPPING TRIPS, MORE INTERACTIONS
http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2013/the-global-shift-in-shopping-behavior–fewer-shopping-trips–mor.html

Contributed by Wipro Limited

About the Authors

Sirish Mellacheruvu is a part of the Domain Consulting Group at Wipro Limited and heads the Merchandising and Store operations practice. He has been with Wipro for 5 years. He has about 14 years of experience in the industry and has worked with a lot of top retailers in the segments in multiple geographies on consulting and package implementations.

Girish Kumar is a Global Practice Partner, who heads the Omnichannel Retail practice within Wipro Limited’s retail vertical. He has about 17 years of IT experience with key focus on Retail, Omnichannel Fulfillment and e-commerce domains. He has lead multiple business transformation programs for fortune 100 retailers across geographies, spanning Apparel, Grocery, General Merchandise and other specialty categories. He has been instrumental in reinforcing Omnichannel Retail practice, though demonstrated successes in strategic approach, industry solutions and thought leadership.

 

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