Date: March 20, 2014
Published by: The Financial Post
By Hollie Shaw
(Below is an except of the original article.)
TORONTO • Online giants such as Amazon and eBay have been gleaning information about their customers’ merchandise browsing and buying habits for years — and now bricks and mortar retailers are taking a page from their playbook.
From in-store cameras that track how long customers pause at store displays to opt-in apps that recognize shoppers’ identities and send an instant coupon to their phones, retailers are keen to discover new avenues of advantage over convenient rival websites, even as they seek to capitalize on their own Web channels and integrate them with bricks and mortar stores.
“They take all of the great attributes of a retailer’s Web analytics — who came to my site, how long did they stay, what did they look at, what didn’t they look at and how did that convert to purchases — and apply them to the physical world,” says Doug Stephens, founder of Toronto-based advisory firm Retail Prophet, which showcased a range of the new digital technologies in the Retail Collective display at Toronto’s recent DX3 conference.
“The store, in essence, is becoming a physical website.”
The emerging technologies allow retailers to observe customers looking at an item in a store and simultaneously determine how many people are using the store’s WiFi network to check Amazon’s price on the same item, for example.
(Stephens said,) “We are starting to live in a world now where I’m not very comfortable to spend a night in a hotel room unless I know what other people think about it." And I don’t want to buy a camera unless I know what the online reviews look like.”
Those are issues San Francisco-based Hointer and IQMetrix of Vancouver address in two very different ways.
Hointer, founded by former Amazon executive Nadia Shouraboura and used by Levi stores in the U.S., allows customers who use the company’s mobile app to scan a QR-coded tag on a pair of jeans to find out more information about them. If customers want to try them on, the app sends a notification to the back stockroom to put aside selected sizes and styles. Users can then buy the goods they like immediately though their mobile devices, without waiting to check out at the till.
“It is a very convenient way for a sales associate to work with a customer,” Ms. Shouraboura said, one that would allow smaller stores to optimize limited spaces and keep well-trained sales associates up front rather than working to fold or restock items.
IQMetrix sells an “endless aisle” in-store display touchscreen, an interactive device that allows consumers access to virtual inventory and a range of added information beyond the store’s physical inventory display, including reviews.