Smarter Shopping with Technology



While quietly shopping for groceries at midnight on my phone next to my sleeping husband, I realized just how strange it was to do so. The plan was to drop off the kids at school in the morning, work out, then stop by and pick up the groceries that I had put in the electronic cart on my mobile phone. Times are changing. The next morning was productive, as the grocery store was on my way. I pulled into the designated parking spot, and within 10 minutes my groceries were in the trunk and I was on my way to the office. Traditional, brick-and-mortar stores are fighting fire with fire: an online presence is now a tool in building business with conveniences like having someone else do the shopping. Stores are using digital signage, IoT, and other technology to make every customer interaction count.

Companies like Amazon, an online behemoth, are making it increasingly difficult for brick-and-mortar stores to compete. Shopping online has 24/7 convenience, makes comparing products easy, knows the products that you purchase repeatedly, and saves your shopping cart forever. Customers expect online stores to track their preferences and personalize the shopping experience. The same kind of personalization has been difficult for traditional stores. However, with smart digital signage, smartphone apps, and a little creativity, traditional stores are working to customize the shopping experience, too.

A woman holds her smartphone up to a code on a shelf to add a coupon for the product.

A few years ago, I put a store app called Cartwheel on my smartphone. It saved me money, time, and made shopping more informative. I could check a price using my smartphone as a barcode reader. I marked e-coupons at any time, which the app collected and saved for my next visit. Later on in the store, the cashier scanned a single barcode on my phone that applied all the coupons; no scissors required. No irritated customers behind me when I had 30 coupons that each had to be scanned. Technology is making life more productive in the retail world.

Digital signage can make shopping more informative and convenient for shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores. Personalizing the shopping experience can be a good thing for customers, saving them money, time, and frustration. For retailers, information from digital signs on how long people linger in front of a display can translate into products that better fit the demographic local to the store. Smart digital signage means less wait time at a restaurant. Table-top payment kiosks in restaurants mean that customers don’t have to wait for the check; it’s on the touch-pad kiosk. Customers can close their ticket, securely swipe their credit card in the kiosk, and leave a busy restaurant without wait staff ever handling their credit card.

Remember Pokémon Go? Augmented reality apps can assist customers in finding an item. A customer can find the correct aisle for a specific item by searching for it on her phone. When she reaches the right aisle, she can hold up her smartphone, and a digital overlay identifies the area or bin with the item. Digital signage can save time for customers and store labor costs.

Stadium games are more fun with digital signage. You can leave the game to get snacks or go to the restroom without missing a play since large displays feed the live action along the way. Moderated, scrolling twitter feeds allow fans to contribute to the social experience with commentary. Voting by smartphone enables concertgoers to influence the encore song. Processors all around us fuel engagement, create convenience, and offer a richer experience. Signs can be much more than signs anymore.