Robots, interactive shelves and more in new smart stores

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This photo provided by SoftBank Robotics America demonstrates a shopping experience with SoftBank Robotics' humanoid robot called Pepper, waving at right. The robot can greet shoppers and has the potential to send messages geared to people’s age and gender through facial recognition. (SoftBank Robotics America via AP)

The new time is coming, soon to fills shops helping robots and more. And what is the goal? Get online shoppers back to stores.

Today we bring you an article from Anne D’Innocenzio from The Associated Press. 

Amazon’s new experimental grocery store in Seattle, opening early this year, will let shoppers buy goods without needing to stop at a checkout line. Sensors track items as shoppers put them into baskets or return them to the shelf. The shopper’s Amazon account gets automatically charged.

Kroger, Neiman Marcus and Lowe’s are among the companies already experimenting with futuristic retail stores. Robots, for instance, could help guide shoppers to the right aisle, while augmented reality apps could help you see how a particular shade of paint will look in the living room — or how you might look in a pair of jeans. Many of these technologies will be unveiled or demonstrated at the CES gadget show in Las Vegas, which began Tuesday with media previews.

Plenty of retailers have learned through trial — and error — that technology can’t get too far ahead of shoppers. It has to be easy to use and beneficial to shoppers in some way, whether it’s to save time or money. If retailers get it right, they might succeed in boosting spending at retail stores at a time when consumers increasingly prefer to shop online.

Here are five technologies coming to a store near you.

ROBOTS

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s is testing robots in one of its San Jose, Calif., store, and plans to roll them out to 10 more stores in the state this year. Besides scanning shelves for inventory, the robots can guide customers to specific products in both English and Spanish.

Shoppers will also start seeing robots that interact with them more deeply. Japanese joint venture SoftBank Robotics is testing a 4-foot humanoid robot called Pepper at two Westfield Malls in California. They greet shoppers and can do a little dance, but have the potential to send messages geared to people’s age and gender through facial recognition. SoftBank Robotics says it’s working with clothing retailers to help suggest outfits to shoppers.

INTERACTIVE MIRRORS

High-end clothing stores are testing interactive mirrors in dressing areas, a key place where shoppers decide whether to buy or not.

Neiman Marcus has installed these outside fitting rooms at 20 stores to offer shoppers a 360-degree view of what an outfit looks like. Shoppers can make side-by-side comparisons without having to try them all on. They can also share video with friends for feedback. Variations include capturing a customer’s session at the beauty counter and emailing a video to help the person recreate the look at home.

Rent the Runway, an online retailer that lets people rent high-end clothing, teamed up with Samsung to have digital displays highlight its online inventory for shoppers at a new location in New York. A mirror in the store is planned to recommend items that go with what the customer is wearing.

SMART SHELVES

Web retailers have plenty of data on their customers. Some of these online technologies can even track shoppers from site to site to lure them back with what’s known as retargeting ads — promos targeted to what that shopper has looked at before, but didn’t actually buy. Smart shelves with sensors promise the same kind of in-depth consumer behavior analytics at retail stores.

At a Kroger store in Cold Spring, Ohio, shelves currently show digitized price tags and information about the products. The next step is to tie that to individual shoppers. For example, for a shopper who prefers gluten-free products, the price tags could light up in the aisle where all the gluten-free options are. The company says this will all be done with the customer’s permission.

Perch Interactive, a startup that is working with chains like Sunglass Hut and fragrance maker Jo Malone, uses laser and motion sensors to detect when a product is picked up. Perch monitors the interactions and lets retailers know what people pick up but don’t buy. It also offers recommendations: When a shopper picks up a Jo Malone product, an interactive display pops up to show a complementary fragrance.

 

More at http://www.denverpost.com/2017/01/03/smart-stores-robots-interactive-shelves/.