The fascinating thing about Amazon’s Go store concept is that it shows off what’s possible from the technology that we have available to us now, yet it seems like something out of science fiction. In a world that is rapidly developing self-driving cars, people are already using helpful technologies like predictive searching and geo-notifications to do remarkable things that we didn’t imagine a short while ago.
The future is literally in our hands – as it is the smartphone, allied with cloud computing, that is making many of these new experience possible. With Amazon Go, it’s the app that unlocks the power of the camera tracking technology and the deep analysis that works out which person is which, where objects are going, and how to make appropriate billing decisions based on the evidence – without human intervention.
Retail is an exciting place to be. It’s not only the technologies, and chief among them are video and video analytics, that can turn the cameras we all familiar with into something much more. Video cameras are rapidly becoming sensors that connects to robotic brains of artificial intelligence, machine learning and the analytics that are used to make important decisions about improving the store, the systems and your way of working.
But there’s more to it than convenient technology. Shopkeepers should know it’s impossible to simply wave a magic/technical wand at the problems faced on the high street, for example. The tech builds on data, and knowing your customer in the digital, millennial world, is vitally important. With virtually every shopper armed with a smartphone, there’re now a lot more ways to get to know more about your customers, and to connect with them.
For a long time, online data has dominated in this kind of analysis – every click tracked, every page-view timed and every penny spent accounted for. This is one way that Amazon has grown so fast and become so effective with its suggestions.
It’s an oft-held assumption that getting this level of granular insight into a brick and mortar store was impossible, or at least prohibitively costly. Gone are the days of handing out hundreds of surveys or security staff pouring over thousands of hours of footage, particularly if the retailer wants to position itself for growth in the technology era.
Now with ‘Internet of Things’ sensors and software analysing the big data that results, customer journeys, intent, and reactions to a store, products and displays can be measured, and acted on by multiple departments such as retail operations, visual merchandising, marketing and loos prevention, all utilizing the same 360-degree video technology. It takes away errors of memory or bias that humans bring and reveals the truth of behaviour that can be lost when people respond to surveys.
For example: It might be seen that customers trying on trainers always go to a specific mirror – once this has been detected the merchandising around said mirror can be adjusted for the identified audience; or the layout changed to make the mirror-search quicker. At the same time, other areas of merchandising might be going unnoticed because, in finding the mirror, the same customers are taking an unexpected route back around the store. This is just one of the thousands of subtle changes 360-degree video technology can make which add up to a real difference in sales, engagement and the overall customer experience. The analytics tracking the customers make the discovering of such insights a breeze.
Through the use of sophisticated 360-degree video technology in conjunction with real-time data analysis, retailers now have abilities to read and respond to customer reactions in real time, with computer aided actions reacting to events in store faster than humans can, and over areas more widely that humans can see and react to.
The applications of such information and technology are vast and will continue to expand rapidly in the coming years. Yet all technologies in the retail environment should be about improving the customer experience, and it’s through that lens that efficiencies and costs are also improved.
It’s the improvement to the customer experience in a myriad of ways that will assist ‘bricks and mortar’ stores in continuing to attract customers. After all, we all love a great experience, and we’re happy to travel to find them. It’s in planning a great experience using technology that retailers will make the most exciting things happen in 2018 and beyond.