4 stand-out examples of innovative in-store tech

It is no secret that the retail industry has seen a significant and widespread shift away from physical stores towards online shopping.

In a world of constant digital transformation, consumers are becoming more confident and technically savvy. In order to stay relevant, bricks-and-mortar stores must satisfy their shoppers by providing new and creative in-store experiences.

Here are four retailers using the power of tech to attract and engage consumers:

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Uniqlo’s self-checkout 

Last year, Uniqlo introduced self-checkout machines, which have significantly reduced queue times in-store.

To use the technology, shoppers simply place the clothes they wish to buy in the designated area, eliminating the need to scan individual pieces with a barcode. Then, the machine automatically displays each item and the price on screen.

The automated system uses radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which allow the machine to identify each item and calculate the total amount.

There is a small RFID tag, thinner than 1mm, attached to each Uniqlo item. While bar codes require manual operation, RFID tags can wirelessly transmit data, collecting product information within seconds.

Uniqlo’s system is extremely quick and efficient, with no need to individually scan purchases or remove security tags. Simply drop in the items, pay, pick them up and leave.

However, Aptos vice president of strategy Nikki Baird tells Charged that while RFID in stores is an evitability, in retail it is still a raging and polarised debate as to whether the technology is worth it.

“The holdup is operationalising it; and security/loss prevention is the biggest concern – especially if you use EAS tags,” she says.

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Crew Clothing’s handheld tablets

Crew Clothing says it has “transformed” the shopping experience for its consumers with a new mobile sales solution. The retailer has replaced traditional tills with hand-held devices, allowing employees to serve customers anywhere on the shop floor.

Crew is planning to remove all its traditional tills within the next 12 months, permanently transitioning to its mobile sales solution.

“Instead of being constrained to a check-out area, our staff can roam the shop floor, engaging with customers and offering immediate purchasing opportunities – from fitting rooms to front of house, or wherever is most convenient for the customer,” Crew Clothing head of IT Richard Surman says.

“In addition, the solution design and integration have been so straightforward that our employees can use it with minimal training, which means they can be out on the floor and helping customers much faster and with greater confidence.”

Baird agrees that mobile devices for store associates are a “top priority,” adding that “retailers are trying to get associates out into the aisles with customers but still as fully capable as if they were behind the till”.

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Co-op’s electronic shelf edge labels 

Last month, Co-op announced that electronic shelf edge labels (ESELs) will be replacing its paper labels across all stores, following a successful 12-month trial.

Created in partnership with SoluM and Herbert Retail, the labels are estimated to save £220,000 in paper and printing each year.

The ESELs not only save paper, but can create a more visually stimulating and interactive experience for shoppers, through QR codes and barcode scanners. The labels can also assist supermarket employees through accessories such as cameras, a syncing system across all shelves and lessening the chance of human error.

“It’s a big investment but it’s worth it as our stores will have increased efficiency, assured pricing and product information, reduced paper wastage and an enhanced store team morale,” Co-op retail transformation project lead Mark Barnett says.

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Cos stores tech-based shopping experiences 

Back in May 2022, H&M Group rolled out new tech-based experiences in Cos stores across the US, following an initial trial in its Beverly Hills, California store. The group said the roll-out was part of its wider initiative to build “more relevant and meaningful relationships with consumers”.

The new shopping experience includes seamless payment options, personalised styling recommendations, faster checkout and upgraded delivery and return options.

In addition, COS stores now include smart fitting rooms that allow customers to request items without having to leave the fitting room.

According to Nikki Baird, smart fitting rooms will become much more common in the future, after the initiative was severely interrupted by the pandemic.

The mirrors recognise products brought into the room, spotting the item, size and colour, with the possibility to offer personalised product and styling recommendations.

“We are developing and imagining how COS retail spaces can inspire our customers, both now and for the future,” Cos managing director Lea Rytz Goldman said.

“Our ambition is to pilot new technologies that allow us to meet and exceed our customers’ in-store shopping expectations.”

From seamless self-checkouts and mobile sales points to automated shelf labels, tech is already beginning to significantly elevate the in-store experience, taking it to a new level. As consumers become more comfortable with the concept and potential offered by AI, machine learning and integrated screens, we can only expect tech adoption across the high street to continue to grow.

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