Retail: New Store Navigation Tools
With consumers turning to their phones for information (83% believe this makes them more knowledgeable than store associates – Tulip Retail, 2017), shrewd brands are making mobile the default in-store interface. We highlight 2017’s best innovations for product detection and route navigation.
- Lowe’s In-Store Sat Nav: American home improvement brand Lowe’s has partnered with Google’s advanced augmented reality (AR) technology Tango to upgrade the indoor navigation tool on its shopping app. This uses camera devices to overlay images onto a physical space in real time.
The Lowe’s Vision concept uses motion tracking, area learning (where the tech ‘sees’ and ‘remembers’ key visual features of a physical space) and depth perception to boost search in two US stores based in Sunnyvale, California and Lynwood, Washington.
Users simply input products into the search bar; the phone then guides them to the right spot by overlaying directional prompts onto what they’re seeing in their camera’s viewfinder. This part of the app is only accessible to those with Tango-enabled smartphones (currently Asus ZenFone AR and Lenovo Phab 2 Pro).
See also Gap x Tango: Advanced AR Dressing Room Concept and US Homeware Brands Embrace AR.
- Text, Visual & Speech-Triggered Search: American DIY brand The Home Depot has launched a search tool on its app that allows consumers to search its physical and online inventory in real time, guiding them to in-store items on a map. This means shoppers can buy the products online if they’re unavailable in-store.
It understands both text and visuals – pictures can be taken via the in-app camera function, or uploaded from the user’s camera roll. If there are no direct matches, it will recommend items closest in appearance. There’s also voice search; users can either say their requests as usual or, somewhat amazingly, mimic the noise the tool would make. See also Redefining DIY.
- Bluetooth-Enabled Self-Steered Shop Navigation: German electronics brand Saturn has also integrated in-store product locating into its mobile app. Powered by Bluetooth technology, a map shows users’ positions in real time and by choosing a specific product, offers a route directly to the right shelf. It’s currently being trialled in its Ingolstadt flagship in Germany.
Similarly, in 2016, luxury London department store Harrods added a beacon-powered store navigation tool to its mobile app. It connects to a user’s phone or tablet through Bluetooth, highlighting their location on the interactive map. In this instance shoppers search by brand, with the software tracing a relevant line for them to follow through the store. It was developed by British technologists Pointr Labs.
- Text-Based Wayfinding Tool: Also playing on the ability to navigate spaces autonomously is French DIY retailer Leroy Merlin’s Maia, launched in 2016. The text-message-based chatbot responds to customer questions about the location of products when a staff member isn’t available, or when shoppers prefer not to navigate the store alone. The helpline number is displayed on the brand’s website as well as on in-store graphics and staff jackets. The tech was developed by French digital agency Phoceis.
- AR Compass for Airport Retail: London’s Gatwick Airport has introduced an AR wayfinding tool to help travellers navigate its terminals. Also developed by Pointr Labs and currently embedded in the airport’s app, the phone’s camera is used to view directions laid directly over what they’re seeing on screen to find check-in areas, departure gates and baggage belts. A roll-out of the technology to other airline apps is planned for 2018.
Powered by beacon technology, this presents a key marketing opportunity for retailers; its geo-aware capacity means it could send travellers that have opted in ads or real-time offers when sensing they’re close by. The concept is highly applicable to mall retailing. See also Travel Retail: Trends & Innovations and New-Wave Airports.