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How retail innovations become reinvention engines

Published September 23, 2020

Since the beginning of commerce, retailers have had to reinvent themselves and their technology to keep up with shopper expectations. And, given today’s incredible disruption, these same retailers have had to adapt—faster than they ever had to before.

Tech investments scheduled to happen in three to five years? More like three to five months today. That’s because shoppers are overlooking loyalty for stores that have e-commerce, product availability and in-store safety precautions, and retailers are scrambling to keep their customers. In fact, a survey conducted by global SaaS company NCR found 1 in 5 consumers say they will “probably” or “definitely” change where and how they shop, leaving 20% of shoppers up for grabs.

 

In a survey conducted by global SaaS company NCR, 1 in 5 consumers say they will “probably” or “definitely” change where and how they shop, leaving 20% of shoppers up for grabs.

Self-checkout innovation

As soon as the pandemic hit, the world began looking for ways to avoid contact at every transaction to reduce the spread of the virus. So, how can retailers reduce contact during the checkout experience? A solution that can be quickly and simply implemented is key. Retailers, , needed to act fast – almost immediately – and didn’t have the time to spend on integration investments.

But looking even beyond this initial touchless progress, retailers need to understand how to take this a step further with long-lasting touchless technology. Even if they just focus just on self-checkout, retailers need to work to eliminate 100% of the touches required for a customer to check out.

So how is it possible to go 100% touchless while still maintaining the long-term integrity of a self-checkout? The solution is using technology that provides an overlay sensor on top of a self-checkout touchscreen, so users can navigate without really touching the screen. The customer goes through the usual motions, almost touching it, but stop about an inch away from the screen. By emitting an IR light field, this “almost touch” breaks the light field and the screen registers the motion as a touch.

 

Mobile app innovations

According to the same NCR survey, consumers feel safe by controlling the shopping experience – and 62% say they are more likely to use handheld self-services devices, scanners and apps on their own mobile device in the store.  Safety is key when it comes to shopper expectations, and using a personal device adds an additional layer of security for customers. Imagine your customer being able to control their checkout from an app on their phone. Using virtual navigation, consumers can walk up to a self-checkout, scan a QR code with their mobile wallet and navigate the entire checkout process on their own device, without ever having to touch the hardware.

 

Let’s move out of the store and into a c-store forecourt

What if the only thing a customer had to touch at the gas pump was the pump handle itself? And if they could avoid touching the payment area and fuel grade selection, too?  to allow their customers to be able to activate the pump and pay for their gas from their car. Kum and Go President Tanner Krause said, “Today, in our current moment, limiting common contact points is essential. So, we created an app feature that significantly reduces the time to activate a pump and allows you to do most of it from the comfort of your vehicle. It’s the latest way Kum & Go is able to make your day better.”

 

Anti-microbial services

Even with the innovations that are being produced to enable contactless payments, the likelihood that a retailer can eliminate every touch for a customer throughout the shopping journey is minimal.  So, what can retailers use to make their shared devices (like PIN pads and touch screens) safer? Use anti-microbial coating.

An anti-microbial coating makes it difficult for germs and other pathogens to survive on surfaces, limiting their transmission by touch. The benefit anti-microbials have over basic sanitizers is that they are a coating rather than an application. By using them, retailers can go a step further with a longer lasting solution that brings their customers peace-of-mind to shop in-store.

 

Customer queueing

Safety is top-of-mind right now for consumers who have been tasked with protecting themselves and those around them as best as possible. But human nature can complicate things; consumers have grown impatient with extended wait times caused by social distancing and capacity regulations.

Imagine this scenario: your customer decides to go to your store to pick up a sorely needed product. The first thing they see is a line of other shoppers outside waiting to enter. When they join the line, they have no idea how long they'll be standing there because they’re likely not going to know how many people are in front of them. Now, they’re stuck waiting and growing more irritated by the minute, even though those measures are in place to help keep everyone safer. Do they leave? Maybe consider a different store all together?

To help keep your customers from abandoning the store entirely, consider using a queue booking application. There are apps available that allow your customers to reserve a time slot to shop, so that when they arrive, they’re able to enter without queueing. The app also shows shoppers when the quietest times are to visit the store. This allows your customers to control their experience, right from the palm of their hand. And it gives you a bit more control while helping them improve health and safety.

There’s no telling what the next big disruption will be. But with technology getting smarter all the time, it’s getting easier for retailers to adapt. The key, really, is having an agile approach. And that’s one thing technology can help retailers keep in stock.

 

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