Think about when you go to a store. What do you enjoy? What parts do you dread? What if you could take out the experiences you don’t like — would you shop more or less? For over 20 years, Amazon has bet on the fact that if you can remove the areas that cause friction with consumers, they will shop more in your store. Looking at the current state of the retail market, they are right.
Brick-and-mortar stores are adapting to changing customer expectations. Self-checkout terminal shipments to U.S. retailers grew by 155% in 2016. While that isn’t new to the retail industry by any means, it does provide a way for consumers to move in and out of the store faster, avoiding lines — which is key when trying to provide greater convenience to the shopper. The growth in this industry is indicative of the overall sense in retail: if you aren’t adapting, you’re getting left behind.
“Generation Z (up to 19 years old) represents about $40 billion in spending power and students have grown up with a smartphone in their hands at all times,” Patrick Cervenik, systems sales consultant, MBS Systems. “This is the first generation where this is true and they are the college store’s main customer. They are using their phones to browse, research, and compare products. An omnichannel shopping experience is expected.”
Stores and restaurants are looking to AI or some form of scan and go technology to stay relevant to today’s consumer. As the bugs are worked out, more stores will adopt the technology, and customers will expect it from every store — even their college stores.
Service giants like Walmart and McDonalds are already making changes. Walmart is testing their Scan & Go app (which is already available in Sam’s Club) along with handheld in-store scanners that allow customers to scan their purchases as they shop and then pay directly from the app before leaving. McDonalds has followed Wendy’s and Panera’s by beginning to install automated ordering kiosks. These latest changes, as well as the innovation to come, are driven by the need to save time, increase convenience and get better results for the customer. Customers’ have almost endless choices on where to buy whatever they are looking to purchase. What sets a specific store apart from the rest of the crowd is the shopping experience in the store.
“I think we’re going to see a continued shift away from rows or banks of traditional checkout to checkout points throughout the store,” Cervenik said. “Whether that be from an associate’s handheld, a self-checkout kiosk, or a shopper checking herself out from her phone and walking out the door.
ABI Research forecasts that global AI business use will increase from 7,000 in 2017 to nearly 900,000 by 2022. Whether it is using customer service chatbots, targeted advertising or loyalty programs, plans for implementing technology in effective ways need to be on the forefront of every business manager’s mind.