What is the Real World Smart Store?
Nov. 17, 2016: By Michael T. Grady
Executive Vice President
Imagine an in-store shopping experience where mirrors double as touchscreens...where you can swipe through a store's inventory and have items brought to you...where you can pay for merchandise without ever having to stand in line at a register. Where data from devices can support operational change, employee performance and create unique customer experiences. Imagine your online experience supporting your in-store experience and vice versa.
Welcome to the Real World Smart Store
Today's retailers focused on bringing their loss prevention and IT teams together - those teams building the real world smart store - is not a myth. It isn't something predicted to happen far into the future. It's happening right here, right now - in the real world. And it's being driven by consumers looking for a consistent online and in-store experience - a true omnichannel experience.
Retailers are increasingly delivering this in-demand omnichannel shopping model, combining the convenience of online shopping with the tactile experience of brick and mortar shopping. From the moment shoppers walk into a store, they may be met with touchscreen mirrors that allow them to view merchandise, check what's in stock, and send items directly to their dressing room. This shift in consumer behavior requires retailers to think differently and demands that roles like loss prevention adjust to these changing times. In fact, it is imperative for LP professionals to understand the real world smart store and know how their expertise not only protects merchandise, but also helps improve the customer experience.
Retail creating exceptional customer experiences
Retailers are listening to their customers and engaging them on their personal technology. Delivering products, services and experiences on the customers' terms. What's driving this convergence of digital and physical shopping? Evolving customer expectations, social media, research-driven purchases, instant gratification and personalized service are just a few of the factors. Savvy retailers are quickly integrating the online and in-store experiences. And those who don't? They risk becoming obsolete.
Many retailers are now equipped with devices that recognize shoppers who use their stores' mobile apps. Once triggered, the mobile app tells salespeople the customer's purchase history so that personalized recommendations can be made, much like what happens now in the online experience.
We're also seeing special offers being pushed to shoppers' smartphones when they pass near a store; mobile POS and self checkout with the option to receive a soft-copy receipt; on-demand customer service that allows shoppers to virtually request assistance; in-store fulfillment of online orders; and even same-day home delivery in some cases. Customers can even view an item online, check in-store availability, reserve and pay for the item electronically, and then pick it up at a brick and mortar location of their choice.
Real world data makes the store smarter
Through online shopping, retailers can analyze how customers shop and customize their site and the overall shopping experience to meet the demands of their customer. The real world smart store is no different. Using IP video surveillance and analytics on a secure network, retailers can glean a wealth of consumer behavior intelligence that can be used to improve the overall customer experience, optimize store layout and mapping, and drive business decisions that can improve the bottom line.
That customer behavior intelligence includes valuable information such as footfall, repeat versus new customers, and average number and duration of visits. Meanwhile, applications that were traditionally used for loss prevention, like video and POS data, can reveal insights to customer traffic, purchase habits, staffing, employee training issues, and conversion ratios. Cameras can also track patterns like how customers move through the store, where they tend to linger and how long they stay. These insights help retailers make more targeted marketing, merchandising, loss prevention and overall business decisions that support the company's objectives.
Likewise, RFID technology not only better prevents shoplifting and identify trends in theft, it tracks what's being purchased, what's not and provides real-time inventory of what's available, helping retailers get merchandise back on the shelves faster.
Additionally, predictive analytics are being used to know what the customer wants before they even ask for it either through a live salesperson or via the customer's smartphone.
Building the real world smart store
Building the smart store might even require some retailers to enhance their network solutions to support the applications that deliver the connected shopping experience. Adding or improving your managed/customer Wi-Fi, secondary networks, proactive broadband monitoring and device monitoring and management, for instance, are investments your customers are demanding.
A managed broadband infrastructure that is scalable and flexible enough to deliver the applications and services your business needs is at the core of building a smart store. A robust network can accommodate smart store applications such as remote video, digital signage and smart fixtures, while also supporting loss prevention applications like POS monitoring and exception-based reporting, video alarm verification, and merchandise protection.
These are investments that pay long-term dividends through an improved customer experience.
I cannot stress this enough, the smart store is not something that's happening in the far-off future. It's happening now...in the real world. And as a security professional focused on the retail industry for more than 30 years, I find this to be an exciting time filled with new opportunities for retailers, and I hope you do too.
At Vector Intelligent Solutions, Vector Security and Industry Retail Group come together to make the real world smart store a reality for retailers - right now. Let's continue the discussion at www.vectorintelligentsolutions.com.