One way retailers are tackling the challenges and opportunities posed by the rebalancing of online versus physical shopping, is to experiment with smaller stores and even pop-up stores. It’s 80% cheaper to launch a pop-up shop than a traditional retail store, Storefront says, so the appeal is obvious.
A critical consideration is how to make a small space feel like a big store. In other words, how do you make 500 square feet feel like 50,000 square feet?
One answer is to bring the benefits of online shopping and retail operations into a smaller brick-and-mortar store. By introducing computer vision and augmented reality (AR)-powered mobile apps for shoppers and retail staff, you can create a digital in-store experience that effectively expands what is possible to achieve in a smaller physical store.
Screens Are The Gateway
When consumers shop online using computers or mobile devices, they can browse through tens of thousands of items and make purchasing decisions just by looking at a screen — that’s all they need. Meanwhile, the online retailer does all the work behind the scenes to make it feel like they’re in a store surrounded by the products.
The same thing applies to maximizing a small amount of physical retail space: use the screen consumers already have in their pockets and hide the rest of the complexity from them.
Benefits For Customers And For Employees
Shoppers can use their smartphones to receive a feed of information in a small space simply by scanning products or digital catalogs. Mobile computer vision leverages the camera on the smartphone to recognize barcodes, text and objects and then display product information, videos, pictures and reviews over the image on the screen with AR.
If in-store customers are quickly receiving all the data they would normally expect to get online, it’s less likely they’ll leave the store to complete their research and purchase elsewhere.
You can also offer your customers the facility to self-checkout and arrange shipping through the smartphone. Ultimately, this blending of the physical and digital worlds means shoppers can enjoy the best elements of online and offline shopping in your store, which must have a positive effect on how they feel about your brand and the possibility they’ll recommend you.
In a smaller physical store, the need to avoid low-stock or empty shelves is even more acute, for display reasons and to avoid lost revenue. Having a finely tuned stock and shelf-management system is crucial.
The same computer vision and AR technology can also be used by in-store employees to offer outstanding customer service with so much information literally at their fingertips. Then when the customer is ready to buy, the employee can complete the transaction using mobile POS.
Experiment With What You Already Have
Retailers can be more productive with their space and make stores feel and perform like bigger spaces. Computer vision and AR can be integrated into existing apps, third party systems and databases. The approach is cost-effective and can be tested in multiple locations for a short period of time.
You might find that the best way to think big in retail is to think small.
Samuel Mueller is the CEO and Co-Founder of Scandit and is responsible for overall strategic direction, marketing, sales and business development. Prior to Scandit, Mueller was a management consultant and project leader for multinational companies such as Swiss Airlines, Swiss Re and IBM as well as a corporate researcher at the renowned IBM Zurich Research Lab. While at IBM, Mueller was awarded an IBM Research Division Award and a total of three IBM Invention Achievement Awards. He has authored numerous patent applications and has published his research results in leading conferences and journals.