Today’s shopper journeys are defined not only by changes in how consumers shop but also by the self-service technologies they use to complete transactions. Welcome to the rise of the empowered omnichannel consumer.
Recent surveys find that in the wake of the pandemic, more consumers are returning to stores to shop in-person. McKinsey & Company reports that 70 percent of people who began using in-store checkout, or used it more often in the past two years, will keep doing so post-pandemic.
Innovations in AI are helping ease shopper hesitancy about self-serve checkout, especially when scanning non-barcoded items like fresh fruit and vegetables that are more challenging. Cameras on top of scanners of the self-service device, combined with sophisticated algorithms, identify the type of produce and quantity so shoppers can select the right item at the touch of a button.
Consumers, Retailers on Same Page
A recent shopper study from Zebra Technologies Corp. found that shopper interaction with self-serve solutions continues to increase. Nearly half of respondents said they used self-checkouts and almost 40 percent used cashless payment methods to complete transactions. Nearly half prefer paying with a mobile device or smartphone.
Retailers are onboard with these shifts in shopper behavior. In the same shopper study, 77 percent of retailers believe automated technology makes staffed checkouts less necessary. Nearly half of these same retailers are converting traditional checkout spaces to self-serve and contactless payment options.
As shopper behaviors continue to change, how stores operate, staff and create customer experiences are key to shaping consumers’ retail journey.
Traits of Empowered Shoppers
Another common characteristic of the empowered consumer is an expectation of rapid delivery from e-commerce orders. Most deem two- or three-day delivery a minimum, while 30 percent expect same-day delivery even if they have to pay more, per McKinsey. Retailers that fall short of these goals pay the price of online shoppers abandoning shopping carts.
Empowered shoppers even want retailers to share their values. McKinsey reports that Gen Z and millennial consumers in particular are increasingly choosing brands and retailers that support sustainability, diversity, equity and inclusion. These consumer segments have little tolerance for retailers that don’t share their values. They’ll spend to support those who do, but move on from brands and retailers that don’t.
Shoe Fitting Ripe for Reinvention
The shoe-fitting experience is ideally suited for the self-serve technology empowering shoppers across other industries. Traditional shoe sizing is resource intensive, time consuming and dominated by unsustainably high return rates for retailers with a lower staff-to-shopper ratio. Volumental has helped global footwear brands such as New Balance, Fleet Feet, Bauer and XXL find the perfect fit for their customers.
Its AI-powered 3D scanners reimagine the usual in-store and online fitting approaches. Customers at participating retailers scan their feet with Volumental’s FitTech™ platform, capturing 12 different fit measurements in seconds. The information is fed into a database of 40 million foot scans to deliver unique recommendations for shoes with a perfect fit.
Self-Service Scanning Software
Volumental has launched its own self-service scanning software so shoppers can take their own foot measurements with the scanner and access their fit results immediately.
The software is designed to improve the in-store shopper experience. The average Volumental user purchases nearly 33 percent more per transaction than non-users. Retailers can use the technology to drive an average 20 percent increase in sales. The self-service scanning software is being rolled out in selected stores, outlet malls and brand warehouses in 2023.
How it Works
Instead of waiting for a store clerk to assist them and trying on several pairs of shoes in various sizes, customers step into the Volumental scanner with little to no assistance.
A five-second scan retrieves and analyzes a customer’s foot profile, noting distinctions in length, width and other characteristics such as instep height, heel width etc. A user interface on an iPad guides the customer with specific style and size recommendations for footwear inventory and helpful, easily understood advice and analysis about their feet. The customer picks up the perfect fit shoe from the shelf or a store clerk can retrieve it from the back room.
The customer provides an email ID to access scanning data and shoe recommendations. Retailers store this information in their database to target personalized campaigns based on customer profiles.
Store staff can serve customers more quickly and efficiently, freeing them to attend to other responsibilities and more customers. Self-serve software for shoe sizing pays other dividends. 2022 data shows that stores offering Volumental’s 3D scanner slashed return rates by 25 percent, boosting profit while reducing environmental impact – a sweet spot for today’s values-focused and sustainability-minded consumers.
All signs point to a continued increase in demand for tailored, self-serve shopping experiences that give consumers more information, more choice and more flexibility in all kinds of retail environments. From groceries to footwear, retailers are looking for new ways to serve these shoppers on their terms – while reaping the benefits of more efficient and data-driven systems themselves.