Retailers turn to enterprise tech and IoT to enhance in-store shopping experience

Brick and mortar retail is not dead despite the growth of e-commerce – even Amazon has a physical store now – and retailers are looking to technology to improve the in-store experience and deliver the same level of personalization customers receive when shopping online.

To that end, VMware is helping retailers bring their existing applications and product information to any device using VMware Workspace, which includes VMware Horizon, VMware AirWatch Enterprise Mobility Management, VMware AirWatch Content Locker and Socialcast.  In addition, VMware just announced Industry Templates for Retail, as part of AirWatch, which enables retailers to deploy common industry mobile use cases.

Shawn Rosemarin, chief of staff for Americas systems engineering at VMware, said deploying a mobile management tool is just one part of the puzzle for retailers, which need the policies, restrictions and critical applications to enable use cases such as mobile point of sale (PoS), store management, customer engagement and self-service options.

“There’s an exponential increase in the amount of customer interactions,” said Rosemarin. Retailers have more opportunities to engage with shoppers that lead to revenue by helping the customer find they are looking for, make a decision and get out the door. People generally shop online when they know exactly what they are looking for, where to get it and for what price, he said. Otherwise, they walk into a store and look around.

For in-person shopping, the goal of the retailer is to get high-quality interactions so that the customer has a positive experience and the retailer is able to get a better than average selling price for the item. Mobile devices mean there are a lot of opportunities to arm staff with a lot more information, said Rosemarin. The store’s entire inventory can be made available on a tablet, for example, allowing customers to have a more personalized experience and the product they really want, and they’re counting on the employee to know everything in the store and be an expert.

One example of this customized experience, said Rosemarin, is luxury eye maker Luxottica, which is improving customer engagement through mobile experiences with VMware using AirWatch-managed tablets. Via e-commerce, sales associates are able to locate, sell and ship products directly to a customer’s home or to the store, and store managers can easily access training content, he said. When shoppers visit Sunglass Hut retail stores can “try on” various styles of eyewear using the Social Sun app, then post photos of their potential purchases through a variety of social media platforms.

“All of this is wonderful, but I have to be able to secure and to protect data that is going out and coming in,” said Rosemarin, who said VMware is leveraging remote computing and as well is its VMview technology, which retailers are already familiar with, and AirWatch. “VMware has always been an abstraction company,” he said. “We’re able to bring enterprise mobile management to all devices and extend beyond PCs and PoS systems.”

Rosemarin said retailers are increasingly challenged every day because of how knowledgeable customers are, that’s why it’s important to bring applications as close to the consumer as possible while they are in the store. “We have to augment the ability of employees to deliver the best experience possible.”

VMware is not the only large technology company looking to enhance the in-store shopping experience. The Dandy Lab, a London, England-based based men’s lifestyle and retail store, is using Cisco’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology to merge the digital and physical worlds of retail by creating an interactive “living laboratory” for customers, providing personalized experiences and unique offerings.

Dandy Lab worked with Cisco to implement a number of IoT technologies to foster concepts that encourage shoppers to interact with products and displays which combine physical and digital experience. Customers are able to search and match clothing to create a complete look using technology just as they would with a personal shopper, while retailers are able to optimize business processes through the use of real-time data analytics.

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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