It has taken quite some time, but some large-scale and usable mobile implementations at retail are starting to be deployed.
Over the weekend, I decided to do some mobile-armed shopping at retail as a start for prep for winter here in the northeast.
I needed a tarp to cover some outside things and a snowbrush, expected to be needed relatively soon.
My considered options were Walmart, Target and Home Depot, figuring all three would likely have both items.
Despite all of the Walmart mobile publicity, I have yet to have a useful experience using my smartphones in numerous Walmart stores. And then there’s the painfully slow checkout process, so Walmart was ruled out.
Target and Home Depot were within a block of each other, so I chose Target.
Besides its bright lighting and totally getting the idea that customers who finished shopping want to check out as fast as possible, the company has been a bit on the innovative side of mobile recently.
This was a few days before Target announced its in-store navigation features, which show within the Target app where products are located in the store.
However, as with most large-scale mobile implementations, the technology is deployed well before it’s announced, and this was no exception.
I opened the Target app and in the search box typed tarp. Good news: it told me there were two sizes, they were both in stock and showed me exactly where they were, at E36.
So now, rather than heads down phone shopping I was heads up aisle searching, an easy feat that led me to E36.
Once there, I found one tarp, the smaller size. The larger (and desired size) was nowhere to be found. And there’s one of the mobile deployment challenges: the human factor.
A system can track inventory and identify where a product is supposed to be. But it can’t (yet) tell if that product was moved by an employee, picked up by another shopper or not put in the correct space to being with.
OK, no tarp at Target. Snowbrush? Quick app search, location identified and easily found, with plenty in stock. Since I didn’t have the tarp and not wanting to have to check out of a store two times, I left the snowbrush and left the store.
On the way out, I remembered I had not yet checked in on Shopkick, so I opened the app, which notified me that to receive my points, called kicks, I had to go to the nearby entrance so my phone would receive the Shopkick signal, which I did. A little weird leaving Target by the entrance, but whatever.
Next up, Home Depot.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve approached employees at Home Depot asking where something was located only to be redirected to some other employee who allegedly might, just might, have an idea where the particular item was. This is almost as annoying as the often-heard sales associate statement: “If you don’t see it there, we don’t have it.” But I digress.
On this trip, I opened the Home Depot app and said goodbye to ever talking to a Home Depot salesperson again (nothing personal, but the app has all the info).
The entire store inventory is listed with the actual number of items in stock at the moment.
I searched and quickly found there were 78 tarps of my desired size in stock (the same size as the one at Target that wasn’t there) and exactly, and I mean exactly (Aisle 4, Bay 14), where they were located.
I easily found the bay and sure enough, there were the tarps.
(Not sure who got the task of physically labeling all of those aisles, bays and shelves at Home Depot with numbers and letters, but thank you, whoever you are.)
Next search, the snowbrush.
Ah, yes: more than 100 in stock and located in Aisle 23, Bay 008. Now we’re getting somewhere. After quickly walking the 19 aisles, snowbrushes easily found.
I loaded both my ShopSavvy and ScanLife apps and did price checks with both to make sure these were the best prices and found they were. Then it was on to checkout.
Having had the pleasure of not dealing with any salespeople so far, how could I not do self-checkout? No line, a couple of quick product scans and out of the store we went.
Mobile technology is finally showing signs of shopping behavior transformation.
While these are small, individual examples of finding a specific product or two, the personal shopping experiences of millions of mobile customers are being allowed to change.
The in-store, product locators have arrived so mobile shoppers can easily find what they’re looking for.
One tarp or one snowbrush at a time.