The impending doom of brick and mortar retail is much discussed, and perhaps premature. The future is personal, reactive and connected. And with these approaches, physical retail is leveraging the experience economy.
This phenomena is powerful enough that digital consumer platforms like Amazon are extending into brick and mortar with Amazon Go. Real interaction can be a powerful key to unlocking consumer potential.
Let’s look though, at how an established player is working to adapt.
Witness IRL, Walmart’s new retail innovation laboratory. Open in Levittown NY, IRL is an acronym for Intelligent Retail Lab.
Walmart refers to it as a startup within the company. They have astutely given it the flexibility to truly innovate.
IRL uses sensors, cameras, and interactive touchpoints to activate the store. These technical systems create an ability for the store to personalize experience. It also gathers rich data on inventory, product placement, and POP. Finally, it informs and reacts on logistics like spills in the aisle, or other maintenance concerns.
It’s the very beginning of enmeshing tech with a true reactive retail environment, but the results are already proving to be powerful.
“Customers can be confident about products being there, about the freshness of produce and meat,” Mike Hanrahan, IRL’s CEO, said in a press release. “Those are the types of things that AI can really help with.”
As AI also becomes connected to customer app opt-in prior to the retail experience, and post visit engagement after, the effect becomes manifold. This is the real value proposition of the experience economy.
From a design standpoint, these systems now become part of the toolset for experience design. They enable the integration of experiences that not only create powerful connections and messaging with consumers, but also unlock incredibly valuable high fidelity data.
The future of retail is here, and it’s personal.