Commentary

Mobile Shopping Future At NRF: Tap For A Salesperson, Scan Anywhere On Packaging

Using mobile devices for in-store shopping activities are about to be cranked up yet again.

This is being driven by a continuing focus on creating the retail experience of the future, where new, interactive technology spreads throughout the retail world.

As I roamed the various floors and displays at the National Retail Federation annual retail show of shows in New York this week, it became apparent that some of the technologies here and on the way are going to transform consumer in-store behavior.

Just as CES every January in Las Vegas shows products that consumers will see over the next year or so, the NRF event tends to highlight what changes shoppers can expect to see in stores in the near or even distant future.

At the NRF show, I checked in with Lucinda Duncalfe, president and CEO of Monetate, a company whose technology is used to create campaigns by integrating disparate pieces of customer information on the fly.

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Duncalfe said her company is seeing a shift from a channel focus to a focus on customers, at least on the part of some companies. Retailers using the Monetate platform include Macy’s, Best Buy, QVC and Dick’s Sporting Goods, among others.

And much of this customer focus involves more personalized and sophisticated in-store capabilities.

For example, Tom Nix, CEO of Scala, a company known for connecting digital signs, kiosks and mobile devices in stores, showed me some of his company’s new in-store customer targeting capabilities.

Rather than using beacons to send a shopper location-based messages, Scala uses them to modify in-store, digital signage so that as a consumer approaches a screen, the content can be changed to be relevant to the person’s profile and purchase history.

Nix showed me some other in-store, screen uses, such as in interactive fitting rooms, but one of the most interesting was a new way for a shopper to get the attention of a sales associate.

A shopper can use a touchscreen kiosk to request assistance anywhere in the store, triggering a message to the mobile devices of sales associates. The salesperson responds that they’re on the way, and the shopper sees a photo and the name of the salesperson and when they’ll be there.

I could see the obvious major benefit of this in a very large store, like Home Depot, Lowe’s or a Walmart superstore, where a shopper and a salesperson can be nowhere near each other.

Mobile shoppers in supermarkets also will be impacted by new mobile and digital trends, though more because of a side-benefit.

For example, an innovation by Digimarc, a company that creates invisible barcodes on packaging, is about to dramatically increase the speed of checkout.

By using coding all over product packaging, a person at checkout simply runs the product over the optical scanner. Even though people can’t see the coding, the optical reader does.

In a demonstration by Larry Logan, chief marketing officer of Digimarc, I saw package after package fly through the scanner and be read without ever having to search for the UPC code, which is the case today. The reader can also scan more than one product at a time.

The invisible coding can be included on just about any packaging. At the NRF display, products from supermarket chain Wegmans were used.

And here’s the mobile consumer value: a side benefit of the coding is that the packaging can be read by simply aiming a mobile phone at it, in this case using the scan feature in the Wegmans app.

The product is instantly read and product information including its description, pricing, store location and check-box to instantly add the product to a shopping list.

The longer term implication of this for marketing is that any messaging can be associated with any packaging.

That messaging can be based on location and even changed on the fly, Logan said.

So while the ROI benefit is an easier and faster checkout for retailers, the consumer benefit is the instant access to product information and any associated messaging.

I went to a Wegmans store yesterday to see if any of the coding was yet on packaging and, sure enough, numerous products I checked via the scanner in the Wegmans app were live, even though the checkout system was not yet using the coding.

In this case, the consumer benefit is arriving ahead of the intended focus of the overall implementation.

More value is coming to mobile shoppers. The just have to become aware of it.

 

 

 

 

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