Over the last few years that I spent in retail, I have often times been part of discussions around some really cutting edge stuff that was supposed to transform retail. A few of these solutions seemed plausible and retailers wished they had them. Some of them much like a cross over movie have been seen in a few places but did not quite make it big time. I list my top five of those below:
1. RFID should definitely take the head position at this table. It had the potential to sound the death knell to the humble bar code and transform the supply chain and the store front. SCM managers were told how they would no longer have to scan individual items at the warehouses. All they had to do was point a scan gun at a box of RFID tagged merchandise and voila it updated the system inventory.
Store Managers especially at Hypermarkets dreamed of similar magic at the front end i.e. scan a cart full of shopping in a single motion at the Point of Sale and the computer prints out the bill – promotions and all leaving behind nothing but delighted customers.
Sadly, the cost of RFID tags did not reach a price point that was affordable to retailers and there were reports of iffy tag accuracy – which meant the technology got deployed in a few places, but really never reached mainstream.
2. Recognising the customer when she entered the store has long been a “holy grail” for retailers. Why? So that the store associates can offer customised / personalised services especially if she was a high value customer. Whether the store associates have the potential to do this has never been tested because no viable solution ever emerged. RFID cards were discussed and discarded.
No one was really clear if the customer wanted to be recognised. These days apps on GPS enabled smart phones are supposed to solve this problem. However the original question i.e. does the customer want it is still unclear. Will the customer keep the app on all the time letting the retailer track her every move? Not sure.
3. The Magic Mirror was something every Fashion Retailer has secretly lusted after. The very idea of doing away with the trial room and customers swishing away in front of a faux mirror which was actually a screen and trying on virtual apparel for look and fit was beyond cool.
The real life demos did not have the coolness factor of the advertised videos. It also seemed pretty arduous to photograph and vector map every product in stock. This in times when it was a challenge to tally physical stock with system stock. Retailers quickly got real and stopped dreaming about it.
4. The famous case study of Tesco Homeplus’ successful experiment went viral and retailers discovered the QR code. A variety of use cases for the QR code were pondered over. A few brave retailers tried pilots but the level of customer engagement did not make the case of a wider roll out.
5. Finally, the self check out solution. Jury is still out on whether the cost of the solution and an incremental increase in shrinkage numbers will justify improvements in customer satisfaction and revenues.
The solutions out there are only gradually maturing. Most older people seem to prefer the cashier over a self checkout station.
There are a few others that have been on the fringe of retailers’ minds like Augmented Reality. 3D printing is being discussed about in some circles. Mobile PoS would have made it here but it is being deployed more rapidly now.
Are there more that you can add to this list? Please let us know in the comments section.