Shopping Experience of Tomorrow

Today, when we shop, we go to the store.  We are greeted by store associates.  And we go on a frustrating search for the items we need.  What would the shopping experience look like tomorrow?

Of course, there are many forces at play and there are many alternatives.  Online shopping and home delivery is becoming more and more of a norm.  Then again, there is reverse showrooming, which is driving foot traffic to brick and mortar stores.  There is geo-based advertising that is being developed.  Gamification may make the shopping trip more fun.

There is another trend that is developing – self-service.

Americans are getting more and more used to self-service.  We have self-service check-out counters in store.  We have self-service check-in counters at airports.  Self-service is an attractive feature for retailers as it can greatly reduce labor costs.  What does a fully self-service shopping experience look like? Hointer in Seattle transformed jeans shopping by eliminating sales associates in stores, thus lowering costs while providing a superior shopping experience.

Hointer in Seattle has transformed the jeans shopping experience by eliminating sales associates in stores.  To many, this equals a superior shopping experience.

While Hointer is a specialty jean store, there is evidence that the self-service model will soon go mainstream.  Best Buy is testing Chloe in New York City.  Chloe is a fully automated system designed to help you find CDs, DVDs, and other small electronics.  You shop via the kiosk at the store, similar to an online shopping experience.  You complete the transaction at the kiosk, and Chloe goes to retrieve your item. Even though the store closes at 10pm. Two of the kiosks are set up outside the locked doors, so customers can have access to Chloe 24/7.

Automated shopping solutions are attractive to retailers due to lower labor costs and potentially extended shopping hours.  They are attractive to shoppers as well.  Online shopping requires shipping time, whereas you can pick up something immediately from a store.  As retailers embrace these automated solutions, one thing to keep in mind is that people do still crave that human interaction.   According to a Yelp review, that human interaction is greatly valued for a luxury purchase such as specialty jeans.  Best Buy Chloe is built with a call Blue Shirt button, in case there are any troubles (assuming the store is open).

While these systems are still in test, it can be easily imagined that they will be widely adopted in stores nationwide.  A fully automated shopping experience may be available at a store near you tomorrow.

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