Are traditional brick and mortar retailers and the in-store customer experience doomed as Amazon Go squeezes its way into an often technologically stagnant vertical?
Not quite yet.
Convenience is key in modern day retail. Shoppers want competitive prices, but as anyone who has compared prices across categories on Amazon knows, the king of retail does not always have the lowest price. Instead, Amazon lures customers with their low price perception and nearly unbeatable convenience factor.
Amazon Go continues this trend, but in-store. They put an end to two main in-store retail pain points: out-of-stocks and long checkout lines. With numerous employees on the ready to restock dwindling items and “just walk out” tech, Amazon brings their “1 click ordering” and Buy Box requirement that entails consistent stock levels to the real world.
Taking notes from Amazon Go, it is clear that the concept has been successful in the months since its official launch. With a fail-fast mentality, Amazon scraps poor performing tests and doubles down on the winners. That’s exactly what’s happening with Amazon Go.
With a second (and much larger) Amazon Go store in the works in Seattle, and San Francisco and Chicago expansion plans in the works, it appears that status quo retailers may have something to worry about. With that said, what can brick and mortar retailers do to revamp the in-store customer experience in order to keep up?
Retailers must offer timely promotions
Many shoppers download their favorite retailer’s apps for the deals and rewards. Saving on the items they already buy or discovering new ones due to promotions can make the in-store shopping experience more enjoyable. But being hit with generic or, even worse, incorrectly targeted deals puts a damper on the revenue potential. Shoppers want retailers to understand what they like—without making it creepy.
That’s where proximity marketing comes in. In a retail environment using computer vision, or even just one that uses an app and ultrasonic sound or beacons, pushing relevant offers to shoppers has the ability to boost sales. Just as an online shopper gets “you might also like” and upsell messages in their email and on an e-commerce site, this is also possible in-store.
In-store shoppers can seem much more elusive than online shoppers because retailers have few ways to figure out what they’ve been browsing. Gaining this knowledge allows retailers to push offers for products that the shopper picked up and considered, but ultimately decided against.
Whether they should suggest it later on during that trip or a month down the line largely depends on the product category. But the bottom line is: retailers need to know when their loyal customers are in-store to provide them with the best offers and suggestions based on previous buying behavior. Amazon Go’s numerous cameras and sensors embed this possibility into the shopping experience.
Music to their ears: How sound boosts in-store CX
The main goal of the Amazon Go concept is to reduce friction in the in-store customer experience. What Amazon gets right is properly identifying customers and cutting down on the time it takes them to move through the customer journey.
To keep customers coming back, the cherry on top is trustworthy payment methods. After all, when checking out with a cashier, shoppers can point out when an item seems to have scanned for a price higher than what they saw at the shelf.
Checkout in an Amazon Go store happens automatically, with a receipt for purchases emailed to the shopper afterward. This introduces the complications of card not present transactions into the physical retail space that had previously been confined to the online realm. These transactions are costlier for retailers.
In order to keep up with Amazon’s advancements, retailers will need to add in more robust security measures for the payment process. A way to do this is adding data over sound technology to serve as second factor authentication.
While the Amazon Go experience is revolutionary in a number of ways, there are still vestiges of the old days of retail. Take the entrance process for example.
Each shopper must open the app, pull up a QR code and scan it in order to enter the store. This gets complicated when a shopper has a cracked screen. QR codes used to contain coupons and minimal amounts of data, but the truth is they aren’t as secure or user friendly as other solutions.
For retailers to keep up with Amazon, they must reimagine the in-store customer experience to be as seamless as possible with forward-thinking technology.
Where the in-store customer experience is heading
Retailers realize that they must rethink their strategies to stay competitive. One of those methods includes allowing customers to check out anywhere in the store. This isn’t exactly “just walk out tech,” but it’s on the right track. Shoppers want a unified experience, whether they research online, buy offline or complete the entire process on one channel.
One approach to these problems is data over sound. It helps retailers identify shoppers, target them with personalized messaging, and checkout securely without waiting in a long line. This can all be accomplished with standard speakers and microphones already embedded in shopper mobile devices and in-store tech.
Amazon may have a stronghold on “just walk out” technology for now, but as Microsoft and Walmart partner up to improve the in-store customer experience, it’s clear that competitors aren’t going to let them win without a fight.