Is shopping convenient? As simple as the question may seem, not many people ask it, and not many people will have a straightforward response. It’s not really something that is actively pondered each time a customer needs to buy an item, but subconsciously decisions are being made that influence which retailer ends up making the sale. From a retailer’s perspective, we can say with confidence that the actual or perceived level of convenience is one of the most important factors dictating where customers spend their money.
Time has always been a valuable commodity, and people are more connected these days than ever. This means work often intrudes into aspects of our personal lives, and stress levels are rising. For these reasons, an entire economy has developed around how to simplify various tasks, and retail isn’t exempt. Before online retail was a thing, the most convenient choice for shopping was at the local store- there was no real alternative. In the early days of online retail, the catalog was limited, and delivery times extremely slow- still a major deterrent to most customers. These days however, online retailers can be described as highly convenient- you literally just click and buy, with short delivery times.
So, during this time what has changed in bricks and mortar? Well… not much. Sure, some stores have introduced self-service checkouts- but in many respects they are a major step backwards in terms of convenience! Think about it; the main purpose of self-service checkouts is to save money on checkout staff, and it’s completely understandable that a retailer would want to save on such costs.
However, what is neglected is the poor customer who dares to skip the line and try the self-service checkout. It’s happened to all of us- the line is simply unbearably long, so we decide to give the self-checkout another go despite knowing deep down that it probably isn’t a good idea. You start swiping your items, and quickly encounter the dreaded flashing red light. Everybody stares at you as the security warden comes to tell you how you’ve been doing it “wrong”.
In the above scenario, (which happens to basically everybody who tries the self-checkout), yes, the retailer saved on some staffing expenses- which would be great if the customer kept coming back. Here’s the catch- in an environment where it is all about the convenience and the experience, you couldn’t expect that customer to simply come back. There are plenty of great alternatives, like other stores, or online retailers who offer the same product.
Ultimately saving on costs cannot come at the expense of convenience or experience, because you don’t want to lose a customer due to dissatisfaction. When it comes to convenience, those who can provide a “convenient” experience tend to require the customer to take less steps in order to achieve their goal, while the inconvenient options introduce greater “friction”, often in the form of higher complexity, or a need to take more steps. As a company, IMAGR was formed by a fundamental need for a better shopping experience. We recognized that there would be no future for bricks and mortar if no radical improvements were made to how customers interact with their stores. This is how we came up with the idea of having a “smart” shopping cart which would eliminate all the main frustrations experienced by customers when they visit a traditional store.
By leveraging the latest computer vision technology, we have created an algorithm which is capable of accurately identifying items as they are placed into the shopping cart. Of course- if the accuracy was as good as a self-service checkout, we’d have a difficult time calling it a “superior” solution. The good news is- through extensive development and testing, we have managed to create a solution which is truly as accurate as a human eye. Essentially, the computer algorithm is able to (instantly) identify items as they are placed into a cart, with an accuracy rate of close to 100%.
In terms of serving customers with the most relevant suggestions, retailers have traditionally lagged behind technology companies like Alphabet and Facebook. It all comes down to the use of data. Think about how the ads you receive on Facebook are so closely matched with your actual interests, even though you’ve never filled out a form telling Facebook what you like. This is achieved through harnessing data such as which pages you liked, commented on, or shared.
If there is one industry which could generate data rivaling that of the internet giants, it would be retail. Each year, customers spend over 10 TRILLION dollars on retail related purchases, and this correlates with billions of unique transactions. Each transaction has a value, category, time, and many other useful points which can facilitate personalized product suggestions.
The ability of SMARTCART to serve these personalized suggestions, not only provides a far more engaging and interactive experience for the customer, but also brings about tremendous benefits for the retailer. By automatically analyzing the purchasing history of each customer, vendors gain invaluable insights into what their customers expect. This in turn allows the retailer to deliver far more appropriate and impactful suggestions that result in customers feeling like the brand is providing them with a personalized experience each time. Traditionally, since data wasn’t involved, it wasn’t possible for a retailer to know what items each customer was interested in, and this meant a disconnect between what advertisements were served to the customer, and what that customer actually wanted. With our advanced technology, customers can now receive the most relevant and useful information each time they step into the store.
Remember, at the end, convenience is king. It is up to the retailer to deliver the most convenient experience, and if this can be achieved, issues like online competition, or even cost, become much less of an issue. It doesn’t take a huge financial investment to dramatically improve the level of convenience for your customers, but the willingness to embrace the latest methods and technologies is key. Innovations like our SMARTCART provide a platform upon which both retailers and customers gain the best of what technology has to offer. If you are feeling like being awesome, then feel free to get in touch with us to discuss your business needs. We’re confident we’ve got the right solution for you.