Whether a shopper scrolls on a smartphone or navigates in a brick and mortar store, retail is undeniably in the midst of a major transformation. From drone deliveries to augmented reality in stores, what was once the realm of imagination or science fiction is fast becoming a reality, thanks to a hardened edge of the web and soon, 5G technology.
This digital transformation affects both the supply and demand side of retail, including factories, transportation, drones, robots, and augmented reality. The way consumers make purchasing decisions is changing, and the ability of retailers and e-retailers to accept, adopt and adapt to new technologies will likely impact the success of their businesses.
So, which technology is better for engaging with the customers in stores, augmented reality, or robots? Let’s understand this by looking at the features and see which one of them is best for in-store advertising and shopper marketing.
Retail Application of Augmented Reality
For the retail trade, the main advantage is the possibility of creating differential value, both for employees, facilitating their day-to-day life, and for consumers, by improving their customer experience.
Among the applications of these technologies are the stock management and inventory control processes, combining advanced code scanning systems with AR. Through these solutions, employees can manage the warehouse in a much simpler and faster way, and perfectly follow the planogram of the shelves. Besides, speeding up the resolution of tedious and routine tasks frees them from workloads, so that time can be used in activities more related to human skills that generate value for the company.
For customers, these solutions have different uses that favor the relationship with the brand and help boost loyalty. Its most common uses are in self-checkout operations, as well as in product scanning to display information in real-time: videos about products, opinions of other consumers, or simply the ability to explore offers and options that adapt to your interests and preferences, such as descriptions, ingredients, or eco-friendly features.
Augmented reality, together with machine learning technology and artificial intelligence, allow, for example, the customer to go directly to what they are looking for and exit without wasting time. A simple scan from the device allows you to evaluate what you add to your virtual basket, pay through your account and leave without having to queue at the checkout.
This technology is transferring the advantages of electronic commerce (detailed information about what we want to buy, greater control over our consumption, and immediacy) to the physical store, facilitating the merging of the positive aspects of both business models.
Robots for Changing the In-Store Experience
In-store marketing robots, robotic POP displays, and automation have revolutionized the retail industry. In recent years, robotics has been implemented to improve automation processes, so that companies can take advantage of technology to provide more complete and faster services to their customers. For example, in a department store in Japan, a pilot program was carried out in which robots were used as sales personnel in the men’s section, where they interacted with customers to learn about their needs.
This exercise was carried out by the University of Osaka, Japan in early 2016 to test robots in the field of retail sales. The activity took place in the men’s department because men generally feel pressured to buy after interacting with vendors and showing interest in the item, even when they are not sure they want to make the purchase.
Men seem to feel more comfortable with robots, as robots do not make assumptions about the sale during or after the transaction. The experiment was deemed successful, as Hiroshi Ishiguro, a professor at Osaka University states: “The robot never lies, and therefore it can sell a lot of clothes.”
However, it is still early days for robots to run stores, even in Japan, which has a fascination for androids and is at the forefront of the creative implementation of robots in everyday interactions.
While robots have been working in the background of retail operations to optimize supply chains, shipping, and logistics, they are now entering the stores to provide customer support and marketing and serve the needs of the sales staff.
Consumers are thirsty for smart assistance. Whether it’s information sourced from Siri, Watson, Google Now, or Pepper, the ability to deliver a seamless and unmatched customer experience is key to retail success. Artificial intelligence can use customer analytics and shared data more quickly and accurately than human sales reps to deliver targeted and timely offers to the customer.
Finally, we can say that AR is of more use to online stores where it is useful to improve conversion rate and increase profit by reducing returns and facilitating shopping with less uncertainty. For the physical stores, robotic POP displays, robotic automation, and in-store marketing robots seem to be more effective in enhancing the customer experience and brand profitability.