Shopping in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s 

Do you remember the good ol’ days of shopping at strip mall discount stores? The large parking lots, rows and rows of discounted goods (lit under fluorescent lights), linoleum tiles, and you could always count on a real-time, special deal announced over the PA system.  Blue Light Special, anyone?

Sadly, many of them–Shoppers World, Venture, Woolco, Giant, Woolworth, Zayre, K-Mart, or Topps–no longer exist. Retail is already a brutal business, made more challenging ever-changing customer expectations, digital technologies (show-rooming is a particularly poignant example), and the steady introduction of new competitors.

Today’s top retailers–Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, The Home Depot, Target, Walgreen and CVS — continue to scramble to stay on top. New contenders arrive onto the scene almost every day. In order to survive, every retailer must have a vision to “maintain dominance and have the ability to meet consumers’ changing desires, including their appetites for online shopping and digital interaction.”

Sounds great, but how do you do that?

The era of omnichannel

The last time you shopped online with Amazon, did you get the feeling that you were shopping in your own store? The site knows you and offers you personalized deals. Amazon suggests items that it “thinks” you might like. And, you get free shipping with your purchase arriving in as little as 2 days — all without you ever leaving your home.

Amazon Prime, with its free shipping and a host of other benefits (Amazon Instant Video among them), is driving customers back to shop more with Amazon. According to Fortune magazine in 2015, “Prime members said they spent an average of $538 annually with Amazon, far more than the $320 by non-Prime members.”  Much like the CostCo model of selling memberships to create a predictable, steady stream of revenue, Amazon Prime has multiple benefits for the company and helps create an engaging, “sticky” relationship that brings shoppers back time and again.

So what’s next in retail? Curbside makes it easy to find, buy and pickup products at nearby stores. Shop via Instagram.  Or, Scan and shop your favorite catalog. Considering the fact that shoppers are overwhelmed by a tidal wave of new ways to shop digitally, and with retailers facing ever more new competition and increasing customer expectations, how can brick-and-mortar retailers compete? 

Reimagining the brick-and-mortar experience

One promising answer is the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT has the potential to enable a whole new in-store experience with “the store of the future.” Similar to shopping at Amazon, the store of the future is going to know you. The data that is harnessed into useful insights will allow retailers to deliver a personalized, omnichannel experience and empowers them to serve you better.

When you enter your favorite department store, you will feel a personalized touch that is memorable, and connects to the digital experience you might have had with the brand online.  You might even find yourself entertained. Or — at least informed of the all the product and sale options available to you, right there in that moment at the store. Your experience will be so amazing, that shopping online will seem flat to you. After all, certain categories, such as apparel, continue to sell better in-store than online. Wouldn’t it be great to get the right size jeans the first time, instead of dealing order 3 sizes and returning 2?  And for big-ticket purchases, the in-store experience is better because many consumers still like to touch and feel the things they want to buy before making the decision to purchase.

The store of the future has the potential to reinvigorate the in-store experience, making what now is simply another purchase option something to look forward to. Retailers are already piloting concepts that incorporate sensors, cameras, RFID, beacons, virtual mirrors, intelligent shelves, interactive trial rooms, contactless payment, and digital signage. All with the goal to elevate the customer experience.

Build your store of the future, today

We’re on our way already. Cognizant has built a scalable solution platform that integrates data from multiple sources in real time, to optimize retail operations and improve customer experience. 

Our solution, Cognizant RetailMate,  bridges the physical and digital shopping worlds and, importantly, works with your legacy enterprise systems and IoT edge technologies to bring intelligence into the retail store environment and harness shopper engagement data.

RetailMate delivers advanced insights that help create personalized experiences, optimize product placement and shelf-stocking patterns, and provide real-time data on shopper patterns to enable floor personnel to design better promotions and customize their customer support.

Find us at NRF BIG SHOW 2017nrf-2

And if you’re the type who wants to look and feel, visit Cognizant at NRF 2017. RetailMate is how market leaders will fend off competitors—in the Digital Store of the Future. We will offer four demos for you to view:

  • Turning insights into action with one pane of glass.
  • Empowering the digital associate.
  • Adapting to the digital consumer with BOPIS convenience.
  • The augmented reality shopping experience.
Rahul Ganapathy

Rahul Ganapathy

Rahul Ganapathy is a Senior Manager with Cognizant’s Emerging Business Accelerator Unit, and is part of the Internet of Things business, responsible... Read more