"In 10 years, a leading-edge store will be completely transformed from what it is today."
90% of shoppers leave if they can't find what they're looking for
"Technology does not get bored. That's what it's built for. And it's built to get you as close to 100% inventory accuracy as possible."
Instead of a salesperson spending valuable time checking shelves over and over, a sensor can provide constantly updated data. “The technology is there,” added Gutwein, “and technology does not get bored. That's what it's built for. And it's built to get you as close to 100 percent inventory accuracy as possible.”
In a responsive retail environment, a fully connected system can also provide real-time data and predictive analytics to keep stores stocked and anticipate potential problems. Running low on a hot-selling pair of jeans? The sensor can alert the inventory folks and automatically alert a salesperson via earbud that they need to restock them. Did a celebrity endorsement on Instagram cause a mad rush on a limited-run item? With the right technology, stores can handle those issues before they become revenue-losing crises.
Success for brick-and-mortar retailers “isn’t just about creating more and more footfall traffic,” said Gutwein. “It's about converting the traffic that comes in your store, and you can't do that if the products are in the wrong place, or if all your inventory is stuck in the back stockroom, or if you don't have the right size and the right colors. Technology helps make sure that's all under control so that your customers are actually satisfied when they want to spend money.”
Turning information into insights
Keeping customers satisfied is no small feat in today’s instant-gratification world. The ideal in-store shopping experience “eliminates the friction from shopping,” said Parker. “I no longer have to wait in line for checkout. I no longer have to hunt to find the associate or the product I'm looking for. These happen seamlessly, and they anticipate my needs and adapt to that.”
Given the massive shift to online shopping, retailers know they have to adapt quickly to stay competitive. That means taking all their data and turning it into actionable insights, which is another big challenge, said Rachel Mushahwar, general manager of retail, hospitality, and consumer packaged goods at Intel.
“That data can come from a variety of places—point of sale machines, sensors in stores, and it’s starting to come from social media feeds and a variety of other places. The real question is: How do you start taking all of those unique data sources and getting value out of them more quickly?”
According to Parker, harnessing these emerging technologies allows stores to “eliminate the islands of technology that they have today and actually take action in the store with actionable insights.”
A responsive retail approach, with a 360-degree view into operations, gives retailers the information they need to keep up. “These retailers can see, in real-time, how are consumers interacting with their products,” added Mushahwar. “Is the yellow bag selling? Are people spending more time looking at the white T-shirt? What are the products that are being picked up?”
All those data points combine to create powerful insights into the mind of consumers, and help retailers understand what they want—and what kinds of experiences will get them off their computers and into stores.
What kinds of futuristic experiences will retailers create with a fully connected, responsive retail approach?
According to Intel’s Gutwein: “The sky’s the limit.”