The Future is Coming Very Soon - From QSR to Retail

Albert Einstein said: "I never think of the future - it comes soon enough."

From QSR to Retail, payments in this realm is changing at a rapid pace. With ongoing changes in customers’ expectations, traditional retailers want to change their business approach. The retail revolution is bringing in context-based services, allowing the physical world to merge with the virtual one. Add information around customer insights into the picture and you find the potential for far better opportunities and experiences. The industry as a whole is looking at Omni-Channel in a big way, so that connected customers can shop for and purchase the same items across different channels.

There is an ongoing evolution from single-channel to multi-channel experiences, and more recently to an omni-channel experience. This revolution is all about making sure the consumer experience with a brand is consistent. There are other factors fueling this, such as m-commerce and proximity marketing. Merchants are witnessing a paradigm shift in their businesses as a result of the increased availability of smartphones and tablets. These factors are leading to rapid transition in the form factor of the traditional brick-and-mortar space.

Here are some use cases highlighting the next generation of brick-and-mortar experiences:

eBay’s Smart Dressing Room

eBay had tied up with the fashion brand Rebecca Minkoff to deliver a unique retail experience at one of the brand’s stores in New York. Essentially, it involves a dressing room featuring a computerized mirror display. eBay used this display to drive the use of its mobile payment platform PayPal. The ‘smart dressing room’ recognizes the product you pick from the shelves, recommends other items in the store to pair with it with, and sends instructions about size, color, etc. to the sales clerk. The computerized mirror display gives the customer an option to check out then and there.

Here is an illustration of the smart display:

McDonalds’ Future Vision

McDonald’s was recently featured at SXSW, highlighting what a future McDonald’s outlet could look like. The QSR giant wants to utilize kiosks, smartphones, wearables, etc. to change the customer experience at McDonald’s outlets. McD is also working on an advanced app that will understand user behavior and keep track of order history more effectively. The McDonald’s of tomorrow could feature a new set of software and hardware. The hardware could include smart-kiosks which would allow customers to tap their phones and sync their accounts all through an app. Moreover, these kiosks would immediately receive your order history and provide relative recommendations– not just your regular menu. McDonald’s could possibly leverage the use of bluetooth beacons and enable proximity based payments. Even the tables would not be just ordinary tables, and would be interactive, providing customers with all sorts of entertainment while they wait for their orders.

Here is an illustration highlighting what the future McDonald’s could look like:

(Source & Image Credit: Fast Company)

Macy’s Smart Fitting Room

As part of the "Find Your Magic" campaign, Macy’s had featured the Magic Fitting Room to help harness the power of the Macy's brand while revealing the future of retail in a one-of-a-kind installation. Macy's Magic Fitting Room featured a large-scale mirror with multi-touch technology that interacts with a multi-touch tablet and lets customers browse, shop and "try-on" the latest must-have items virtually, placing the magic of style at the user's fingertips. Customers could flip through the latest fashion goods from some of Macy's top designers, and once complete, send the whole experience to their Facebook page, SMS, or email. The fitting room had featured a 72 inch mirror display which allowed customers to superimpose clothing onto their reflection.

Here is an illustration highlighting the smart fitting room:

(Image Credit: LBi UK)

Zebra Commerce at NRF 2015

The illustrations below highlight an interesting use case that was demonstrated by Zebra Technologies at NRF. This use case shows the use of BLE (Bluetooth low energy) beacons to display products on a digital display. The interesting thing to be noted here is that the product on the display changes based on the user in proximity. So, for example, based on the customer's demographic profile, the display shows the kind of food that would go with the wine.

This use case highlights how insightful data on customer behavior is collected via applications connected to social networks, or those that provide user information. Customers are recognized through the beacons when they enter the store and they are not only presented with products and reviews, but also with reviews conducted by people similar to the consumer.