Customers want a range of choices not only in products they are looking to purchase but also in the shopping channel. Omnichannel enablement today is therefore becoming increasingly critical to secure purchases and brand loyalty. Technology leaders BT, Intel, Nexgen Packaging, RetailNext, SATO Global Solutions (SGS), and Valmarc Corporation have come together to form the Acuitas Digital Alliance (launched in 2016), which is aimed at transforming the in-store retail experience by enhancing buyer behavior predictability, inventory visibility, and stock accuracy. It combines analytical concepts and the Internet of Things (IoT) to improve overall retail in-store efficiencies.
This blog post focuses on SGS’ VISION Retail Platform (VISION). As a subsidiary of Sato Holdings, SGS brings 75 years of AIDC experience and provides some of the building blocks essential to enable businesses to turn raw data into critical business insights to improve the overall customer experience (as an end goal). The platform aims to improve retailer profitability provide better inventory visibility, specifically in identifying out-of-stocks and preventing over-stocking.
The overall ecosystem for this platform consists of sensors, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, Management Console applications (Sales Associate App and Smart Fitting Room App), and in-store gateways, combined with analytics platform(s) to help generate valuable insights with the data collected. The gateway can upload data to the SGS cloud, which can store consolidated data from all locations, giving retail clients the ability to not only perform high-level analysis and reporting but also access these insights from a broad range of device platforms. SGS is positioning this solution as a means to solve store managers’ concerns with having items misplaced throughout the store and seeing their customers lose interest in the purchasing process when dissatisfied after trying on items in fitting rooms and having to return to the shop floor. The goal is to help retailers better predict and respond to customer demand while also getting inventory accuracy and on-shelf availability rates up from current levels of 60 to 65%.
The Sales Associate App sends real time notifications to store associates’ mobile devices, informing them of activities on the floor. The app generates notifications in the following instances – item misplaced within the store; overstock, low stock and out-of-stock situations; as well as fitting room requests sent via the customer-facing Smart Fitting Room App. The associate can also use the app’s interface to view fitting room status, display data such as SKU in detail as well as viewing all currently open tasks. The Smart Fitting Room App seamlessly integrates with this associate application and gives customers the ability to view in-store alternatives for their item, such as different sizes or colors. The shopper can request that a sales associate get them the desired item, increasing the probability that they leave the fitting room with a positive experience. Store managers can access all the information and intelligence collected with these two applications via the Management Console, which uses a customizable dashboard to display comprehensive analytics and shopper behavior. Such insights can only help improve overall in-store customer experience.
SGS expects its VISION platform to optimize associates’ in-store efficiency and productivity, as well as serve as a cross-channel data analytics hub to provide retailers with the insights necessary to create and implement important business decisions, making a more refined overall business strategy. It also aims to allow for a streamlined and convenient shopping experience, increasing the probability that a shopper will make a purchase and leave the store feeling positive about the overall experience.
From VDC’s perspective, it will be interesting to see where SATO takes this platform from the standpoint of including customers’ purchase history and tracking buyer behavior; and enabling click-and-collect or buy online pickup in store (BOPIS). The product as it stands today competes with products like Zebra Technologies’ SmartLens, and chooses to focus just as much on the customers’ in-store experience as inventory visibility and analytics.
The jury is still out on broad adoption and feasibility of such sensing solutions. It will come down to the quantifiable metrics associated with improving customer experience (and foot traffic, because of it) and overall operational efficiencies that will motivate retailers to make the CAPEX commitments required.