Guest Column | February 22, 2021

The Connected Store Of The Future

By Martyn Jones, VoCoVo

Connected Retail Store

Connected technology is playing an increasingly vital role in retail’s evolution. As more and more retailers are rolling out omni-channel strategies, it is those that seamlessly connect all of their channels and deliver frictionless shopping experiences that will be the most successful.

Walmart is the latest name in the industry to implement connected technologies to enhance the customer experience. The hypermarket heavyweight is transforming a selection of its stores into automated fulfillment centers using Alpahabot robots to pick customer orders and cut delivery times. This is just a taste of what we can expect as more retailers realize the value of connected technologies. So how else is connected technology changing the physical retail experience?

Integrating Store Systems

Connecting systems can drive impressive efficiency gains across the store. Smart shelving, for example, can instantly notify store workers when products need replenishing. This helps to avoid customer frustration when products aren’t available and circumvents the inefficient process of a customer seeking out an assistant to check the stock room for the product.

Other devices across the store can be integrated to provide co-workers with to-the-minute information too, such as when a freezer unit loses cooling and requires maintenance, or when produce baked in-store is ready to be removed from the oven and prepared for sale.

Voice communication technology can be integrated with buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS) systems which notify shop workers when a customer is approaching to collect their order. The customer’s vehicle could be detected by a license plate recognition device when entering the parking lot which would trigger a notification to the store so they can ensure the customer’s order is ready for instant collection. Similarly, stores can implement systems that geofence customers’ cell phones to notify shop employees of their arrival. This effectively recognizes when the customer’s device is within the boundaries of the store or collection area and sends an alert to the store so they can bring the customer’s order to the collection point.

Connecting Customers And Store Workers

It’s easy to focus on store workers and systems when it comes to connecting the retail experience, but it’s important to consider how connecting customers with technology and colleagues will help to improve the experience.

Implementing call points in high-flow areas can empower customers to get the assistance they need right where they need it instead of having to walk around the store looking for help. Store employees can respond to customers through the call point, providing helpful and immediate assistance. This makes the experience more efficient for both the customers and store workers.

Wearable voice communication technology such as lightweight headsets can help store workers facilitate faster actions and more accurate interactions with customers. For example, summoning a co-worker to open up an additional checkout or help a customer with their bags can be done at the touch of a button. What’s more, a co-worker stacking products in the aisles can answer a customer query faster by connecting instantly with other co-workers who have the correct information the customer is looking for, ultimately providing better customer service. This also helps to improve knowledge sharing and upskilling as co-workers across the store can absorb the information being shared through their headsets.

It’s not just about connecting colleagues with each other. Connecting shop floor and warehouse workers with the wider management team through wearable technology can enable faster and smarter decision making by facilitating quicker delegation and allowing them to interact on a range of pressing matters, from stock levels and available to product options, pricing, and beyond. This allows store managers and area managers to keep staff across each store engaged and on-track more directly through regular updates and briefings and helps co-workers to feel they are part of a wider team.

The Future At Our Fingertips

By implementing these technologies, retailers can boost efficiency and time saving while improving the customer experience. Customer waiting time can be cut significantly while queuing at checkouts and waiting for co-workers to find product information or additional stock can be eliminated with instant interactions. While the connected store may seem like a concept from the future, these connected technologies are already available for the retailers who are quick to recognize their value.

About The Author

Martyn Jones is Director at VoCoVo.