While most are likely to recognize J.A.R.V.I.S. from Marvel’s Iron Man and Avengers movies, the ultra-sophisticated AI character was first introduced to the comic book universe in the 60s. Tony Stark’s voice-activated butler/personal assistant home-computing system could control and run everything at the Stark Mansion. At the time, I imagine the concept seemed like complete fantasy. Flash forward several decades to voice activated in-home virtual assistants like Alexa and Google Home, listening carefully to answer questions, play music, control your home electronics, or turn on your home security system—as well as add and order groceries, clothes and anything else you may want or need to buy. A world where you can try on make- up or clothes using your mobile phone from anywhere, where you can walk into a store and pick up what you want without a checkout or human to ring you up. Cash used to be king, but these days, you don’t even have to carry a credit card to grab your items and go. These technologies are springing up at stores around the country and what better way to tap into your customers’ loyalty than with these habit-forming trends?
BOPIS…One of my faves before it was even an acronym
I didn’t have to read that one of the biggest themes at this year’s National Retail Federation show (NRF) is BOPIS, the latest retail acronym for the service known as Buy-Online-Pickup-In-Store. Before becoming so widely adopted by retailers, coffee giant Starbucks, helped coffee fanatics skip the lines by offering loyalty members the option to order ahead via their mobile app. Many customers became members just to have access to this program benefit. Convenience and habit go hand in hand. Removing barriers and creating a more seamless and frictionless experience has a way of generating frequent and repeat business. It didn’t take too long before retailers saw the draw. According to a new case study from Adobe Analytics, the volume of BOPIS grew 73 percent between Thanksgiving and Black Friday compared to the same period last holiday season1. It’s the convenience and speed of shopping from anywhere and having the entire contents of my shopping bag ready and waiting at the store, without having to meander around finding things. This is one of my favorite trends in retail with major brands including Old Navy, Home Depot, Target and Macy’s offering this to the general public during their check out flow as a convenience even though it usually requires collecting contact information from non-members. Others like Nordstrom, as we mentioned in the previous article, see BOPIS as one of the benefits they offer exclusively to their Nordy Club members. While there’s a practical element of being able to leverage the member profile
to facilitate the service and keep it easy to use, limiting the benefit to members increases the perceived value of membership and reinforces the sense of “joining the club.”
Grab n’ go…
If free shipping, streaming content, books on demand, Whole Foods and food home delivery weren’t enough, Amazon Prime members have access to another new service with the launch of Amazon Go. The Go convenience store concept launched in 2018 in densely populated, high traffic areas of Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago. Amazon has already announced plans to open up to 3,000 stores by 2021.2 The Amazon Go mobile app (separate from the Amazon Shopping app), like BOPIS, is another trend focused on customer convenience – drive habitual loyalty through convenience. Amazon refers to it as “Just Walk Out Technology,” which automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you’re done, you just leave and the items are paid for by using the form of payment registered to your Amazon Prime account. The only catch is that in order to enter the store you must download the app. For some customers, the phrase “Just Walk Out” takes on a different meaning if there’s any delay in downloading the app. One of the major roles for the Amazon Go attendant at launch is to connect with new customers and help them through the initial learning curve.
In a move to compete, Kroger and Microsoft announced a partnership earlier this year with two pilot stores in Ohio and Washington State, near each company’s headquarters. The stores are designed to make it easier for customers and workers to navigate; saving shoppers time and Kroger money. According to a recent CNN Business Report, customers can build a shopping list with Kroger’s Scan, Bag, Go self-checkout app and once in store, the app works with cloud- based software and sensors to guide them around as they check off items on their list.3 The app directs them to the correct aisle and directs them to the right product. They scan the item with the app to check out, and the system routes them to the next item on their list. While this new method of shopping requires a significant technology investment, creating this as an additional member benefit is likely to drive acquisition and engagement.
If food is the way to the heart, mobile apps might be the way to your wallet
It’s time to Marie Kondo your mobile apps! From buying online and picking up in store, to grab n’ go convenience stores, new mobile apps are popping up everywhere. According to Shopgate, 50 percent of the retailers they surveyed for their new report, “The New Rules for Omnichannel Retailing” said a mobile shopping app is a top priority for their omnichannel strategies, while 45 percent listed mobile points of sale as another key to their plans.4 And another study, by PYMNTS.com, showed that 45 percent of consumers who shop online complete their purchases via mobile smartphone compared to 34 percent who use computers—it may have been slow to catch on, but mobile adoption is definitely on the rise.5 Make way for mobile as retailers develop apps that allow them to stay with you all the time— browsing, buying and connecting. The trick is to help consumers learn how your app works quickly so that it sparks joy and when they declutter their apps, yours will be the one they keep.
A couple years ago, Neiman Marcus rolled out their Magic Mirror, created by MemoMi, designed to create a personal in-store experience where the customer’s makeup application and tutorial is recorded and sent by text to the customer who can share it via social media. Around the same time, Sephora began allowing customers to use the camera on their smartphones to try colors and looks on their own face, or watch custom tutorials virtually without ever setting foot in the store. The app allows customers to view, select and buy the products and even shows the potential Beauty Insider points members will earn in Sephora’s loyalty program based on the products in their shopping cart.
Fast forward to this year’s CES, where Perfect Corp.’s founder, Alice Chang, hosted a panel about beauty and tech with Jessica Pels, the editor- in-chief at Cosmopolitan. Perfect Corp. recently teamed up with Ulta Beauty and Cosmopolitan magazine for online and in-store rollouts of its latest artificial-intelligence (AI) and augmented reality (AR) technology, YouCam. Perfect’s new “Beauty 3.0” suite includes product recommendations, makeup shade matcher, skin diagnostics and live hair multicolor effects. Cosmopolitan sees using YouCam as a way to make
its pages more interactive with smartphone activated AR experiences. Ulta Beauty and other beauty brands tend to concentrate on in-store applications and the use of Perfect’s technology helps shoppers experiment with products and stylists with more compelling product demonstrations. Senior VP of digital and e-commerce, Prama Bhatt, said, “virtual hair color try-ons are an example of merging physical, digital and emotional experiences for customers”—reinforcing the need to generate loyalty by creating and building an emotional connection with customers.
In today’s retail space it’s imperative to stay relevant and to create an emotional connection with customers if you want them to keep coming back. We may not all be genius, billionaire, superheroes like Tony Stark, but with today’s latest technology trends, we don’t have to have J.A.R.V.I.S. to connect and run our worlds, we can do it ourselves with apps from our favorite brands and our trusty mobile phones.