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The unprecedented popularity of online shopping has created a threat to the existence and relevance of physical retail. The widespread use of mobile devices and the COVID-19 pandemic forced many brands to completely shift their focus to online sales.

However, considering in-house shopping as an old-fashioned way of running a business is a big mistake. According to a survey conducted by Statista in 2022, consumers in Europe still shop in physical stores much more frequently than online. Moreover, despite the convenience of online shopping, 46% of respondents in the US and Europe said that they prefer to shop in person rather than online.

offline shopping popularity
Source: Statista

Increasing the use of technology in retail stores is the best way to keep up with customers’ demand and increase revenue.

We will have a look at different stores to illustrate how they are using the power of technology to attract new customers by enhancing their digital in-store experiences. 

But, first of all, 

What is Digital Transformation in the Retail Industry?

Digital transformation in retail is the process of implementing technology in retail businesses by automating and enhancing old processes to provide their customers with personalized and unique experiences. For retailers, it includes implementing QR codes, augmented and virtual reality, smart assistants, enabling AI-powered product recommendations, self-checkout systems, and much more. 

The best digital retail experiences are based on four main pillars which are:

  • IT Uplift

For many businesses, the digital journey starts with upgrading their IT infrastructure and communications platforms. This allows to improve employee and customer satisfaction, reduces maintenance costs, and boosts business performance.

  • Digitizing Operations

Simplifying and optimizing processes with the help of digital tools and advanced technologies such as AI, IoT, ML, etc., to serve modern shoppers better is another important step of digital transformation in retail.

  • Digital Marketing

A lot of global sellers are using the power of artificial intelligence and predictive analytics to win more customers. The technologies help to identify shoppers’ needs, their behavioral patterns, can set viral geo-targeting campaigns, and much more.

  • New Ventures

To keep up with competitors and meet shoppers’ expectations, retailers must regularly upgrade their products and services. Digital provides a lot of opportunities for growth and the creation of new products.

Now, let’s see how different brands have successfully transformed their in-store digital experience.

#1 Nike’s Rise Seoul Store

Nike Rise Seoul Store
Source: Nike

Nike is one of the greatest examples of innovators in retail. For years, it has been blurring physical and digital boundaries with its stores and online shopping experiences.

A 24k square foot space in Seoul, South Korea, is focused on offering curated items to customers based on the place they live in and enabling them to easily buy and pick these items in the store with the Nike application.

The store offers a variety of personalized interactive experiences for shoppers. Large three-story screens show real-time statistics from the local community, and RFID-powered tables enable Nike customers to put two different shoes and receive information about them, The Handle allows shoppers to participate in programs that cover 5 main facets of fitness: movement, mindset, recovery, nutrition, and sleep, and The City Replay, provides a service for the on-site repairment of old Nike shoes and clothes.

#2 Kroger’s Digital Shelf Tags


Kroger’s Digital Shelf Tags
Source: Business Insider

One more example of technology used in retail stores is digital price tags used by Kroger. The digital shelves were done in partnership with Microsoft and they are really cool!

First of all, by using them, the retailer can immediately change prices and activate promotions across the stores, eliminating the need for employees to do it manually. And as you probably know, pricing operations and practices in different stores are archaic. There is a big number of steps a retailer must take before deciding to change prices. With automation and big data analytics it’s much simpler: algorithms monitor competitor pricing online and offline and update the prices based on online algorithms.

This digital technology in retail is also connected to customers’ mobile phones to assist them in completing their shopping lists. How does it work?

As a customer moves through the aisles in a Kroger store, digital price tags light up with a personalized icon that reminds them to add the item to a shopping cart. Afterward, customers can scan the barcode so that they can bypass the checkout when they finish shopping. The application also shows customers where they can find the next item in their shopping list, coupons, and ads.

#3 Carrefour Partnership with Google

Carrefour Partnership with Google
Source: Carrefour

The grocery stores are usually slower to integrate in-store tech compared to other B2C players. Nevertheless, in 2018, the European grocery chain Carrefour signed a strategic partnership with Google to accelerate the best in-store digital experience to boost revenue and open up new ways to reach shoppers online.

A voice-based grocery shopping service that operates via Google Assistant allows users to add shopping items to a virtual cart by saying the general or brand names of the products.

The solution helped Carrefour to decrease energy consumption by 45% by moving from on-premises data centers to the cloud, increasing revenue by providing customers with personalized recommendations, and minimizing service disruption.

You may ask: what about in-store retail technology? Carrefour Flash is one example. The shoppers can enter and leave the shop without passing the gateway, scanning, or downloading an application beforehand. The system detects when the item was taken or returned to the shelves and puts all the items into a virtual shopping list that is shown as soon as the customer approaches the terminal. Powered with NFC technology, contactless payment processes in 10 seconds and customers can scan a QR code to get a digital receipt.

#4 Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Mirror

Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Mirror
Source: Business Insider

A beauty giant, Charlotte Tilbury, famous for its best-selling Pillow Talk products, has never stood away from innovation. With the help of digital devices used in retail stores, in particular, an innovative virtual mirror, Charlotte gives customers a pinch of a fairytale, allowing them to look in a so-called “Magic Mirror” and instantly try on 10 different makeups.

The first in the world augmented reality magic mirror, not only eliminates the hassle of applying and removing makeup but also increases the number of interactions inside the store. Moreover, it’s equipped with an algorithmic recommendation tool that helps to find the perfect look individually. Shoppers can also take a selfie and share the image to search for products later.

#5 Audi Virtual Reality Showroom

Audi Virtual Reality Showroom
Source: Audi

The leading automotive retailer is using VR to design, manufacture, and sell cars in a new, technologically-savvy way. Audi virtual reality showrooms are not limited by the amount of physical space and offer limitless customization options from accessories to additional functionality.

Audi potential customers don’t need to communicate with in-person sales representatives, they can compare models and quotes, have a test drive, and access inventory via VR connectivity. Not only do customers benefit from VR, but also Audi specialists and engineers can create, test, and modify new vehicles in a digital environment.

By simplifying the shopping experience and manufacturing process, Audi is making a name for itself as a tech giant in the luxury car sphere.

#6 Chanel and Farfetch Uveil the Boutique of Tomorrow

Chanel and Farfetch Uveil the Boutique of Tomorrow
Source: Chanel

In 2018, Chanel signed an agreement with Farfetch to roll out a new concept of boutiques. The idea was tested for seven months in Paris before being launched in other stores.

What is so special about these stores?

The French fashion house introduced two apps — one for customers and one for sales associates and connected mirrors in the changing rooms. Sales associates can learn about the preferences of the clients by scanning their QR codes and preparing everything in the fitting room. The motto of the campaign is “Our customer has no time”.

What’s more, using the app, people can get into a virtual tour of Chanel’s apartment, and access playlists and podcasts. An NFT tag enables contactless payment and when tagged with a smartphone, it shows a new collection.

#7 Macy’s Facial Recognition

A once-futuristic idea from a sci-fi movie has already become a reality. More and more retailers start using facial recognition on customers for a variety of purposes which include sales alerts, and automated ads, but mostly to avoid retail crime.

A retail giant, Macy’s was brought to the court for taking pictures of their customers without their consent. A woman from Chicago who is a regular Macy’s customer filed a lawsuit blaming Macy for violating biometric privacy law. According to her, a retailer used video surveillance cameras and facial recognition on its customers for improved security and marketing purposes.

The suit alleges that Macy is a customer of a technology startup Clearview AI which promotes itself as a tool used by law enforcement agencies to identify criminals and victims of crimes. An interesting fact is that BuzzFeed News said that they leaked internal documents from the aforementioned startup that prove Macy’s, Walmart, Kohl’s, and Best Buy were among the 200 corporate clients of Clearview AI.

#8 Softbank’s Pepper Robot

Softbank’s Pepper Robot
Source: Business Insider

One of the most successful digital devices used in retail is the humanoid robot Pepper. More than 140 mobile stores in Japan are using this robot to communicate with their customers. Pepper is able to give answers, and directions, and also chat with shoppers. What is more, it plays music, dances, and even takes selfies with Softbank’s customers.

The first shop claimed that they experienced a 70% increase in visitors during the week of working with Pepper. Today, more than 2k companies across the globe have adopted Pepper as their shopping assistant to welcome, help, and guide customers. Currently, Pepper is available in 15 languages.

#9 Sam’s Club AI Floor Scrubbing Robots

Sam’s Club AI Floor Scrubbing Robots
Source: Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club deploys autonomous floor scrubbing robots, empowered with artificial intelligence. The company used this kind of robot exclusively in their warehouses before. The purpose of buying around 400 additional robotic digital solutions for retail is not only floor scrubbing but also analyzing inventory on the store’s shelves. The shelf scanning feature is connected to the cloud and is able to check pricing, planograms, and inventory stocks. The robot can be piloted manually though with the service provided by Brain Corp, it can operate autonomously.

By the way, the parent company of Sam’s Club, Walmart, also has been using AI floor scrubbing robots in many of its stores.

#10 H&M’s Interactive Recycle Bins

H&M’s Interactive Recycle Bins
Source: H&M

Nowadays many businesses started the transformation to become carbon-negative, which is a great trend. H&M is planning to achieve this goal by 2040, and one of the initiatives introduced is the Garment Collecting program, which includes the usage of smart clothes recycle bins.

Such bins are installed in H&M’s stores to make the process of dropping off old clothes more interactive and give customers a greater sense of reward for helping H&M in reaching its emission-cutting goal. There is a screen embedded into the bin, that immediately shows the weight of clothes dropped in and how much this contributes to the seller’s worldwide tree-planting initiative. Worth to mention, that clothes of any brand and in any condition are accepted. Also, customers can scan a QR Code on the screen to learn more about H&M’s environmental initiatives.

There is some gamification introduced as well — H&M North America installed such bins at stores across the US, which display real-time volumes of cloth recycled split by city, so citizens can compete with other cities to establish which one recycled more on a given week. Another example of using technology in such a simple thing as a recycle bin is integration with messengers. H&M’s bins are connected to MS Teams, and each time a certain bin is filled, store staff gets a mobile notification when it needs to be emptied.

Summing Up

Digital transformation requires time. Like in any business process, you have to decide where to go first. The availability of a reliable and experienced partner is the best first step to begin the implementation of digital technology in retail stores.

inVerita has more than 7 years of hands-on experience in building various digital solutions for retail. Drop us a line and our managers will arrange a free consultation to discuss the scope of your project.

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