One of the most technology-forward retail innovations recently launched in South Africa has been Shoprite Group’s trial of Checkers Rush, an automated, cashless, cashier-less concept store. For Africa, this is still uncharted territory but integrated marketing technologies are being used in a variety of ways to create ‘stores of the future’. By improving the customer experience through digital connectivity and data collection, smart stores help retailers retain business and increase revenues. The shopping experience is being transformed.
“Leading retailers in Africa are beginning to adopt IoT (Internet of Things) technologies to improve their products, services, and most importantly, the retail experience they offer their customers. Samsung and Moving Tactics have partnered to deliver integrated technology-driven marketing solutions to a variety of clients that include mobile telecommunications operators, international Quick-Service Restaurants to national fashion and beauty retailers,” says Chris Day, Managing Director of Moving Tactics, South Africa’s leading digital signage solutions company. “The store of the future will employ integrated technologies and data, similar to those used online, to tailor the in-store experience to a specific customer.”
Some examples of such digital signage IoT technologies include:
Electronic Shelf Labelling
Electronic Shelf Labelling (ESL) has been around for some time but has over the years progressed immensely and new technologies now offer new capabilities and increased efficiencies. Samsung has pioneered solutions that provide customers with a more informed shopping experience. Through integrated Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, Store Managers can prioritise product updates and provide customers with information to guide their purchasing decisions, ie. sharing in-depth resources to inspire immediate on-site shopping. Built-in sensors also track customers through the retail environment via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi technologies, providing valuable data to better the store offering.
Brands such as Samsung and MTN are designing their stores around non-touch tables and displays so that customers get to interact with products and obtain the information required without physically touching any surfaces. “Gesture recognition and motion sensor technologies are becoming more commonplace and we’ve experienced increased interest from clients wanting to implement these innovations in their ‘stores of the future’”.
Telecommunications companies such as Vodacom, Cell-C and Telkom want cellphone display counters where customers can experience dynamic content through physically interaction without touching the products and promotions via motion sensor and gesture recognition technologies. “Through these innovations, we have been able to gather essential data for retailers on what products and information customers most interact with and, in this way, tailor content on an on-going basis. We’ve seen an increased interest from brands wanting to employ this technology and we have recently worked with Samsung to employ these same screens and interactive elements in their new flagship stores.”
Integrated digital touchpoints
In the larger retail environment, a convergence of digital touchpoints such as point-of-sale screens, touch screen kiosks, convergence area screens, in-store music and large-impact video walls accompany the customer on their journey through the store.
“We have worked with cellular brands in particular to create dedicated end-caps and touch screen kiosks that display promotions and allow customers to interact with a specific device; and these have proven popular with customers. The touch screen kiosk becomes your virtual in-store assistant and provides shoppers with an interactive product experience”.
Experiencing the IoT in a retail environment
It isn’t always easy to translate how IoT technology and 5G can apply and add value to a consumer’s life. However, Moving Tactics has worked with mobile telecommunications operators to create in-store real-life scenarios of how IoT can be applied in the home environment and how it can change the way consumers live their daily lives.
“We have previously created in-store gaming centres with focused sound systems for customers to experience the power of 5G. We also incorporate non-touch tables and various other technologies with which consumers can interact ‘remotely’, such as adjustable lighting and picking up temperature and weather in the area. Gesture sensor technology has played a big part in us being able to do this,” says Kevin Bierman, Head of Digital Signage at Moving Tactics.