Retailers Rush to Revamp Stores With Technological Bells & Whistles

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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart

Digitization continues to evolve the brick-and-mortar landscape. From interactive screens to wearable robot suits, here’s how retailers are investing in in-store technology to boost consumer experiences and operations.

Walmart

Walmart is answering the call for a more connected shopping experience. The retail giant is piloting technology services at two new supercenters in Florida and Texas. In addition to an updated layout, both locations feature new devices that streamline product inquiries and checkout time.

Accessing product information is much easier for consumers with two interactive technologies. Interactive screens allows customers shop Walmart’s online-only products, while SmartLife, a technology that projects information about devices like Apple TVs and baby monitors onto tables and walls to provide consumers with product information.

Convenience is another benefit of Walmart’s new in-store technology. If a consumer needs to tackle multiple departments on their trip, an ordering system is available to help. Using kiosks, consumers can place an order at the deli and come back later to pick it up. Although the system is in a pilot stage, Walmart said it could expand to other departments, including auto care and the pharmacy. For speedy checkouts, Scan & Go is also available to consumers. The device enables shoppers to scan products and quickly pay without waiting in line.

Lastly, if a consumer needs help with a product, they can press a Wi-Fi connected call button and a wearable GPS-enabled device alerts sales associates about their request. Walmart is currently training sales associates with these devices, so they can help consumers with anything from apparel to sporting goods.

Lowe’s

Lowe’s is helping employees streamline inventory tasks with a new development. The retailer’s innovation lab teamed up with Virginia Tech to create a wearable robotic suit for sales associates.

During physical movement, including lifting, the exosuit helps employees exert less energy. Carbon fiber in the back and legs of the exosuit bend with the wearer’s body. While the person bends, the carbon fiber stores energy until the person stands up and the suit returns energy to them. The materials and physical properties of the suit enable employees to move freely without risking muscle strain or injury.

Over the past few months, Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Virginia Tech worked with employees to test the exosuit. By consulting with employees, both parties learned about their jobs, routines and body movements and adjusted the exosuit accordingly. So far, employees that used the exosuit said it helped them lift better and accomplish more tasks during work shifts. Lowe’s Innovation Labs and Virginia Tech will continue to collect feedback from employees until the exosuit’s testing process concludes.

Toys R Us

Improving the consumer experience with technology is Toys R Us’ latest project. The toys and games retailer is testing tablets at its stores to help employees communicate better with consumers. Additionally, Toys R Us also plans to revamp its website for a better online purchasing process.

According to Toys R Us U.K. executive Frank Muzika, the retailer launched two iPads in each of its U.K. locations. By carrying the devices, employees can have product information at their fingertips and alert consumers about inventory through real-time updates. Currently, the iPads enable consumers to pick children’s car seats, but the retailer aims to have the devices assist with other product inquires in upcoming months.

Toys R Us is also seeking to build its digital presence out of stores too. Earlier this month, the retailer said its overhauling its website to bring consumers back. On the new website, consumers will be able to refine their product search by category and experience a shorter checkout process.

The website makeover is part of Toys R Us’ innovation investment, which over the past three years has funded almost $100 million in e-commerce initiatives. Toys R Us expects to launch the website in early July.

“The website really represents the front door of our brand,’’ Toys R Us global chief technology officer Lance Wills said in an interview. “In a year to two years, we have to catch up on 10 years of innovation and that’s no small feat.’’


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