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Brief Published: 6 Nov 2020

IRDC Highlights: Apps Power Contactless Retail

Showfields' Magic Wand app

IRDC’s 2020 online event (October 28-29), a leaner version of its usual IRL (‘in real life’) format, featured select brands, retail design agencies and architects. Discussion was dominated by how to design in-store experiences for the Covid-era consumer, specifically contactless retail.

Walmart’s App-Centric Store

“Most people live in a mobile-first world today,” Alasdair Lennox, executive creative director of global retail design agency Fitch, told delegates. “They’re literally heads down; however, their expectations are up. We believe that the power to unlock great in-store experiences can be found in the palm of their hand.”

Lennox cited Walmart’s new app-centric store, designed by Fitch, being rolled out to 200 stores this year and another 800 in 2021, across the US. On entering the store, consumers are prompted to open their in-app shopping list. The app then maps a route to direct them to the exact locations of their chosen products – especially canny, given Walmart’s 180,000 sq ft format. It also facilitates contactless checkout.

The initiative was first tested at Walmart's membership-only sister brand Sam’s Club, detailed in Omni-Commerce Gets Personal.

Showfields’ Magic Wand

Samar Younes, creative director of new-gen American department store Showfields, spoke of its Magic Wand concept. The brand – which houses generally online-only brands for six-month tenures in visually arresting stores in NYC and Miami – introduced an app to allow shoppers to navigate its stores without interacting with assistants or touching items.

The Magic Wand app uses near-field communication (NFC) tags, denoted in-store by Magic Wand icons. Consumers scan the icon to access more information about a product, or virtually add it to their basket. They can also take an audio tour of the space as the app is able to tell their in-store location. On exit, consumers pick up their sanitised, and paid for, order.

For more on app-centric contactless stores, see our report Concepting the Contactless Store, part of Stylus’ Roadmaps to Recovery Macro Trend series, publishing on November 12.