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Customers are returning to stores – and they want connected shopping

Mobile solutions can help enable seamless in-store shopping.

The store is not dead, but it is definitely evolving.

As with every other threat to the survival of the store, COVID-19 did not prove the end to brick-and-mortar retailing. However, the pandemic has served to hasten the development of a seamless store environment where connected technologies provide customers a faster, easier and more personalized experience.

Following are three examples of connected brick-and-mortar shopping experiences retailers may want to emulate to help ensure that customers who return to stores return to their stores.

Checkout is so retro

Many convenience and grocery retailers have piloted cashierless stores since Amazon pioneered the format with its Amazon Go store model in January 2018. For example, convenience chain Circle K has recently been busy retrofitting existing stores in Arizona with different frictionless shopping solutions.

In October 2021, Circle K began offering an artificial intelligence (AI)-based, fully checkout-free shopping experience in a Tempe, Ariz. store. Circle K partnered with retail computer vision platform provider Standard AI to open its retrofitted Tempe location, featuring a frictionless checkout system designed to allow shoppers to completely avoid waiting in a checkout line and deliver accurate receipts in minutes. 

The convenience retailer has also retrofitted six existing stores in the greater Tucson, Ariz. area with checkout-free technology from Grabango. Shoppers skip the traditional checkout line, and instead scan the Grabango app when they’re done shopping. Receipts are delivered in the app for a seamless shopping experience.

Drive-thru – not just for fast food anymore

A drive-thru grocery chain that fulfills orders within minutes is applying the methodology behind ultrafast delivery to in-store pickup to create a drive-thru grocery concept. Known as Opie, the retailer’s stores are open 24 hours a day and feature thousands of items, offering almost every category found in a traditional grocery store.

Customers have three options for shopping at Opie. They can pull into any space in the store parking lot, place their order on the Opie app, select “I’m at the store now” at checkout, and receive their purchases in minutes.

Opie leverages the “dark store” concept, which utilizes small stores leveraging micro-fulfillment technology to fulfill orders from a locally targeted product assortment within minutes. Primarily found in the grocery and CPG verticals, micro-fulfillment uses a “goods-to-person” style of automation and robotics, where a human associate stays in one place and automation delivers the goods to be picked to them.

The (enhanced) human touch

The Mexican subsidiary of footwear/accessories brand Steve Madden Ltd. is creating a seamless, mobile-enabled shopping environment in its stores by providing associates with an advanced clienteling solution that integrates with almost every enterprise function.

Steve Madden Mexico is incorporating the PredictSpring Modern POS and omnichannel commerce platforms into its brick-and-mortar stores. Features of the POS platform include a mobile POS solution which enables store associates to use handheld mobile devices, including iPhone and iPad, to complete fast, secure transactions anywhere in the store.

Store associates can also leverage clienteling functionality to obtain in-app access to customer information, past purchase history, loyalty status and promotions, helping to create a personalized one-on-one experience with the customer. And an endless aisle solution integrates in-store and online inventory, so store associates can provide customers with access to Steve Madden’s full product offering and place online orders on behalf of the customer if an item is not available in-store.

The platform also supports inventory receiving, cycle counting, RFID, store transfers, inventory adjustments, and real-time inventory visibility. It additionally enables customers to purchase or reserve items online and pick them up in-store or curbside, with a contactless payment and delivery experience.




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