There is a lot of technology being used these days in fashion retail to help reduce costs, increase revenue, and enhance the customer experience. Not all tech is created equal, though.
Nexite’s nano Bluetooth technology delivers the brick-and-mortar equivalent of e-commerce consumer behavior data in addition to sales data, giving you unique actionable insights that can help you transform your retail business.
Let’s talk about in-store technology.
Can in-store technology solve post-COVID hurdles?
COVID was a kick in the pants for the fashion retail industry. While the rise of ecommerce was great for fashion overall, brick-and-mortar retail had to deal with store closings, labor shortages, overstock, and high last-mile delivery costs.
The good news: we’re moving past COVID shut-downs, customers are starting to show up in person, and brick-and-mortar is having a resurgence.
The challenge? Stores are still dealing with reduced staff, messy stock, and new customer expectations around their in-store experience. Consumers have gotten used to more product information, highly personalized and interactive shopping experiences, and faster and more convenient point-of-sale options.
And now we’ve got a dramatic rise in inflation to deal with. Just as we were finally coming out of the COVID-induced downturn, retailers are again having to scramble as consumers keep a closer eye on their wallets. They’re cutting staff even more, offering huge discounts to move products, and changing their inventory planning.
But a little frugality may not be enough. In order to survive, brick-and-mortar stores are going to have to think outside the box. More and more retailers are combining the best of physical and digital capabilities to optimize the shopping experience – for the benefit of both consumers and stores.
Technology to the Rescue!
People still want to shop in person. Yet according to a study by the Harris Group, 72% of millennials would rather open their wallets for experiences than for products. That’s why shopping has to provide both: great products and a fun, frictionless experience. The right in-store technology can help you give consumers the customized, interactive, and convenient shopping experiences they want while reducing your costs, increasing sales, increasing profit margins, and speeding up product turnover.
Retailers can reach this goal by making business decisions using an understanding of customer behavior that goes from A to Z …or, rather, from hats to shoes. And the key to getting these insights is in-store technology.
First: An Intro to The Internet of Things
Much of current In-store technology is based on the Internet of Things, or IoT. The IoT is a system of smart devices connected to things – in our case, fashion products – and those devices collect data, send the information via connection to a network, and sometimes even go full sci-fi and act on the data without human intervention.
So, rather than human beings in stores collecting information about inventory, customer service, in-store visitors, etc., the IoT collects the data automatically. As you can imagine, this provides retail decision-makers with more and better information than would be or could be collected by people on the ground. And all in real-time. The data can then be used to make better-informed decisions that have significant business implications. Instead of guessing, you can know in exact detail what’s moving in your stores, what’s not moving, and why. And then you can decide what to do about it.
The most popular IoT retail technologies fall into a few major categories:
QR codes have been around for ages. They’re easy to make and cost nothing, so anyone can create any number of QR codes in any amount of time.
QR codes serve several in-store purposes. By scanning a QR code on their smartphone, customers can find out more information about the product they’re thinking about buying. They can access discount offers or coupons.
They can sign up for newsletters, receive product notifications, or fill in a feedback survey. They can instantly brag about their latest purchases on social media. And perhaps most importantly, QR codes can make the purchasing process painless, with cashless payment, “scan and go” delivery, and integration with a store’s loyalty program.
For retailers, the advantage of QR codes is that they’re highly versatile and can be applied in a wide variety of use cases. They also are super easy to integrate into product displays, store posters, product tags, advertising materials, checkout processes, and more. QR codes are still trendy, even though they’ve been around for close to a decade, and customers like the addition of an interactive element to their shopping. And QR code usage can be tracked, providing management with some important analytics.
But there are some downsides.
Security – If anyone can create a QR code at any time and in any quantity, this includes hackers. QR codes can be created for phishing and to send users to malicious links with spyware or viruses.
Lack of personalization – Anyone who scans a given QR code will end up in the same place, so the information they provide must appeal to all, rather than the individual.
Analytics – QR codes can only give decision-makers information related to the QR code itself: number of scans, number of unique visitors, location of scans, time of day, etc. You can’t get any information about what people have done in or around the QR code unless they’ve interacted with it directly.
It’s true that, when linked to a landing page with analytics, you can get some useful data this way, such as demographics, user engagement data, and other info that will help your marketing team do its job. But the information collected by QR codes won’t help you run your stores better. It can’t give you data to help with your inventory management, merchandising, financial planning, demand forecasting, or any other major business decision you need to make for your brick-and-mortar stores.
Near Field Communication (NFC) Tags
NFC is proximity-based wireless communication with a very short range. Smartphones and many other devices come equipped with NFC, making it easy for consumers to use their phones to access information via an NFC tag on products. Like a QR code, an NFC tag can provide consumers with immediate access to more information about the products they’re thinking about buying. NFC also makes it possible for the consumer to buy the product directly at the shelf, bypassing long and annoying lines at the checkout counter.
If they operate like QR codes, what are the advantages of NFC for retailers?
First, NFC tags are more convenient for shoppers to use. QR codes require the use of a camera, which requires good lighting. NFCs work with just a simple tap of the NFC-enabled phone to the tag.
Second, NFCs don’t take up space. You can design them however you want, or completely hide them. They don’t need to be a part of posters or signage in order to be used, freeing up space for more promotional copy and design.
Third, NFC tags are more secure than QR codes. Not only are they encrypted for payment transactions, but because the tag and reader must be no more than a few centimeters apart to work, it makes it difficult for hackers to intercept the data transmission.
Here are some fun ways retailers can use NFC tags to up customer engagement and give customers the interactive shopping experience they’re looking for:
- Provide more information about the product being considered or offer suggestions for similar or related products that can complete a particular look.
- Send customers on a treasure hunt through the store to collect loyalty points or coupons.
- Place tags strategically around the store to collect on-the-spot feedback about specific products, store layout, customer service, etc.
RFID Inventory Management Systems
RFID (aka Radio Frequency Identification) is a hardware inventory management system that allows retailers to have a better sense of what products they have, where. This technology was especially useful during the beginning of the COVID era when stores were dealing with excess inventory in unexpected places. It provides a greater level of stock visibility and efficiency than manually keeping track of inventory.
That said, RFID is still highly manual. It requires employees to identify the general location (for instance, backroom or on the floor) and then scan items one by one using reader guns. This process is time-consuming and the technology only works as well as the person scanning the tags.
The manual element means data is static. Inventory accuracy is reliant on reconciling with sales information to keep track of how many items have been sold. If there is a misalignment, staff is sent to “look” for the missing items. The inaccuracy creates an atmosphere of distrust, where sales staff don’t have the confidence to support customer requests like click-and-collect or reserve.
Newer use cases for RFID in retail , like security, are still being tested. For example, an RFID security tag may offer one less tag on an item, but in order to offer the same level of security as current systems, the tag needs to be fairly close to EAS readers in order to register that an item is leaving the store, giving RFID only about a 30% success rate when it comes to theft prevention.
These challenges have limited RFID’s adoption in retail, and mean that it’s still used mostly for basic inventory management. RFID is also expensive, especially when it comes to infrastructure, since it needs multiple components to work.
This brings us to Bluetooth. We are all familiar with the concept of Bluetooth from its consumer applications that a lot of us use daily, like pairing our phones to our car speakers or our headphones to our smartphones and computers.
Bluetooth has tremendous use cases in retail. For instance, if a shopper has downloaded a store’s app and has Bluetooth enabled, the store can send messages to that customer’s phone with relevant discounts, promotions, or other reminders depending on their location in the store. Bluetooth can be used to leverage a loyalty program, help consumers navigate to the items they are looking for, invite shoppers to in-store events happening where they are, and so on. But the uses can go beyond customer communication.
Bluetooth has become a ubiquitous, and affordable, technology – removing the barrier of adoption that is presented in more expensive solutions like RFID. It reduces costs, offers greater automation, and comes with industry standards, all wins for the retail industry.
Getting the Most from Nano Bluetooth: The Nexite Solution
Nexite has taken Bluetooth technology to the next level, combining all of the advantages of Bluetooth and the other technologies described above into one teeny-tiny chip. It is the only product that provides comprehensive solutions in one place, without the need for further software build-out.
With Nexite’s nano Bluetooth technology, you get frictionless point-of-sale options and RFID data for store inventory management and inventory replenishment – but better. As opposed to RFID, nano Bluetooth is a truly long-range, battery-free communications technology. No manual scanning is required, anywhere, cutting down on staffing needs.
Nexite’s nano Bluetooth tech also activates off of existing EAS systems for more accurate loss prevention and incorporates NFC for greater consumer engagement. And nano Bluetooth technology meets global Bluetooth standards and has data privacy built into the chip. Overall, using nano Bluetooth is more detailed, comprehensive, and affordable.
But the biggest advantage is what you can do with all the data.
Real-time, automatically-collected data about customer engagement can be turned into a brick-and-mortar equivalent of ecommerce website analytics. So, not only do you get important sales data to drive your business decision-making, you now can have access to granular details on the customer’s path to purchase, which allows you to make decisions based on individual product performance.
Here’s how it works: A Nexite nano Bluetooth tag is attached to each item of clothing in the store’s inventory. The chips broadcast to multiple readers scattered throughout the store. Not only will staff know exactly where any given item is at all times – down to what shelf on what wall or in which dressing room –, the system can begin to build a map of foot traffic in the store. This tells you where in the store people tend to congregate or where they zip right past. It lets you know if someone picks up a particular garment, if that garment was tried on in the dressing room, and whether the garment was left behind or purchased.
This gives you data aligned with the whole customer journey – impressions, interest, engagement, abandonment, and conversion – which can be translated into actionable insights to help optimize sales, profit margins, and turnover.
You can do better demand forecasting, merchandise financial planning, allocation, space utilization, markdown optimization, visual displays, inventory control, and more, within each individual store. You’ll be able to make smart decisions in real-time about everything from what color and size items to stock in which stores to where within any particular store to display them to ensure better engagement.
You’ll know what items to mark down to move inventory quickly or where a customer can find a particular item – either in a store or online. You’ll access fitting room analytics to optimize the trying-on process so that it leads to sales. And so much more.
Until now, retailers’ understanding of the in-store customer journey was based on gut feelings. Nano Bluetooth technology changes the game entirely and gives you hard data you can use to make business decisions. With insight into what merchandise your customers see, which they pick up and try on, and what they choose to buy or not buy, you can rethink your store experiences and customer engagement to save costs and increase revenue.
Find Out How Nexite Can Transform Your Retail Business
Just like Anna Wintour, we at Nexite are forward-thinking when it comes to fashion…fashion retail, that is.
Our nano Bluetooth technology, in-store comprehensive solution provides you with real-time sales and consumer behavior insights so you can make smart, reactive, turn-on-a-dime business decisions that mean no product is left behind.
In-Store Technology Trends Report