virtual fitting-room kiosks For shoppers, trying a dress at Bloomingdale’s may never be the same again. A customer at a Bloomingdale’s outlet steps into a virtual fitting-room kiosk where a sensor scans and projects her image onto an interactive screen.  With a few gestures of her hand, she drags and drops the dress of her choice onto her on-screen image. She gets a perfectly realistic vision of how the dress looks on her. As she moves around, the sensor shows her the fit from every angle. In case she wants a friend’s quick opinion, all she has to do is use the on-screen tabs in the kiosk to share the image with anyone via e-mail or social media.

Once she’s done with making her choice, the screen also makes product recommendations based on what other items she looked at, the number of times she re-tried items and the cuts and colors she preferred.

And during this entire experience, there are no store assistants waiting on her!

Self-service retail takes hold:

self-service retailRetailers are in need of innovative ways to keep today’s tech-savvy, well-informed and perpetually connected cross-channel shoppers coming into their stores – and to hold out against the blitzkrieg of online shopping.

What better way than to get ‘online’ and ‘digital’ to converge with ‘brick and mortar’ and ‘in store’? Self-service retail options present the solution to this situation.

On the one hand, self-service enables shoppers with the freedom, fun and convenience of accessing digital content within the environment of the store. On the other, it offers complete assortments, product, price, stocks and loyalty information to them –at one location.

If you can’t beat them, join them:

‘Showrooming’ has been the trend among shoppers chasing online deals while in your store. One of the best ways to counter this is to give them back in kind – information, insights, comparisons, deals and offers from your sources and while they are in your store.

A McDonald’s franchise outlet in Richardson, Texas, has a sleek ‘nutrition-information station’ that helps visitors understand the nutritional value of items on the menu and plan their meals. A 42-inch,self-service LCD screen presents items on the menu and gives the nutritional breakdown of each – including calories, sodium, and other specifics. It acts as an in-house diet consultant to customers, advising them on how to plan their McDonald’s meal and keep it healthy. This strategy has worked well, as visitors to the outlet feel better about their food choices –even when consuming items that arguably have little nutritional value.

Bàcaro, a wine retailer, uses ‘wine advice kiosks’ to provide shoppers with help in picking the right wine for the right occasion. A customer simply has to place any bottle in the kiosk. Its system recognizes the high-frequency (HF) RFID tags attached to the bottle and relevant information related to it pops up on the screen. This includes its specific grape, winery, country of origin and age, besides recommendations on the types of food, cigar and chocolates that will complement that particular selection.

Virtual walls to experience products:

self-service make-up kioskMany shoppers come into department stores wanting to be left alone while they browse products. Macy’s self-service make-up kiosks help customers browse the department store’s entire array of make-up brands at one place without assistance from store staff. They are equipped with interactive touch-screen walls that allow customers to see top-selling products or those needed to create specific ‘looks’.

Shoppers at an Adidas store in London look at the retailer’s latest products, view information on designs and models, and try out sizes virtually – with no intervention from staff – on a seven feet virtual wall.

Besides digitally displaying various Adidas products, the touch screen panel of the virtual wall shows details such as the inspiration behind a shoe’s design, size availability, price and Twitter feeds – to give a feel of what others are saying about that model.

Shoppers can add items to their basket and enter size and identification information which gets sent to a checkout counter where they can make the payment. Within the first two weeks of the wall coming up at a London store, Adidas recorded a 500% jump in sales of the soccer cleat available through the wall compared with a similar shoe launched six months earlier at the same price.

And now, do-it-yourself loyalty cards:

Retail staff trying to enroll a customer into a loyalty campaign can mean a long wait for other shoppers at the check-out. And often, customers who are already signed up leave their cards at home, leading to searches on the POS system for the customer’s ID and details. Both instances try the patience of checkout staff and other shoppers.

Customers in US Ikea stores enter basic information into self-service kiosks, which instantly print out their membership cards. Some Ikea home furnishings sections allow customers to view, on interactive screens, sofas of their choice covered in different fabric options available in the store.

Electronic couponing and loyalty kiosks let customers browse through available promotions and select the ones that that match their interests and consumption patterns. These loyalty and coupon dispensing kiosks can be an excellent source of data for enterprise CRM and loyalty systems, while helping enroll more shoppers into customer loyalty card programs.

Innovative self-service capabilities in Retail:

As shoppers take to self-service retail processes, retailers are adopting innovative ways to meet their expectations. Unmanned coffee shops with interactive screens on tabletops allow customers to place their orders directly without the help of service staff.

Way-finding and navigational retailer apps help shoppers locate products in the right aisles and shelves without help from store staff.  Walgreens, in partnership with Aisle411, offers users of its app the detailed layout to each of its stores. A customer can make a shopping list and the app immediately ‘spots’ the items on the store’s map – helping the shopper locate everything on his list.

Self-service tools – a hotbed for analytics insights:

self-service toolsAnalysts predict that by 2015, about 22 million traditional signs in retail outlets including grocery stores, department stores and malls will be replaced with digital displays. These digital screens and signage are set to offer consumers the freedom, choice and flexibility to access entire product arrays as well as information, tips and loyalty data – while in your store.

But it’s not just your shoppers that gain from these self-service technologies. These platforms and tools serve as your gateway into how your shoppers think, search and engage with your brand.

For instance, some of the digital signs in stores are capable of monitoring and analyzing the demographics of shoppers passing in front of them. Such demographics can help in customizing in-store advertisements to different shoppers – pitching workout gear or beer to a group of young men and then switching to vitamin supplements or fat-free desserts for older women.

Are you following the tracks left by your customer’s self-service transactions in your stores? Is your analytics system geared to mine the data captured in retail self-service tools and platforms?