Tech-enabled shopping: Virtual reality debuts in offline stores

By: | Published: July 12, 2018 2:18 AM

Retailers are taking the help of VR, online kiosks and RFID tags to bring tech-savvy customers to brick-and-mortar stores

Tech enabled shopping, Virtual reality,  VR system, RFID tags,  DMart Ready stores, Myntra, Jabong, DecathlonThe VR system gives the customer an experience (look and feel) on how living in the tents will be and even shows how the tents hold up during rainy weather.

Aniruddha Ghosh

Retailers have started to make their stores tech-enabled in order to provide a connected omnichannel experience and faster checkouts.
Decathlon, a French sports goods company, launched its new store in Eva Mall in Bengaluru last week, with a few such tech-enabled innovations. The Decathlon store features a VR system which allows customers to experience living in different types of camping tents, zero in on the perfect one and then make their purchase in the store.

The VR system gives the customer an experience (look and feel) on how living in the tents will be and even shows how the tents hold up during rainy weather. Plus, the VR system has how-to videos on pitching the tents. Store manager Kailash said that the brand is also looking to enable customers to play games like tennis through the VR system.

In addition to this, customers, through the Decathlon app, can locate the exact position of the product they want in the store and get a navigation for it. Customers can also scan the RFID tags on the products via the app and access additional details about the product and look at reviews before making the purchase. The payment is done online and the customer has to scan a QR code at the exit to confirm the purchase and leave.

Pierre Digbo, city leader, Decathlon Bengaluru said that in addition to this ‘scan and go system’, the store also has an ‘express checkout’, where a customer can place their items in an RFID enabled kiosk which detects the items and totals the bill. The customer has to simply pay through her card. He says this ‘phygital’ experience will cut down unnecessary waiting time at the counters.
Like Decathlon, other companies who have introduced omnichannel, don’t want their online and offline platforms to remain stagnant but be connected seamlessly and influence each other.

Adidas had opened its first omnichannel store in New Delhi in 2015 where they used the ‘endless aisle’ technology where customers can order a product not available in the physical store through a fashion kiosk and have it delivered to their homes. The aim was to make sure the customer buys from Adidas instead of going to competitors despite the product’s physical unavailability.

Avenue Supermarkets, which operates D’Mart, launched D’Mart Ready stores in Mumbai, which will act as a pickup point for items ordered by the customer online or delivered at home for a charge. Recently, Myntra unveiled its ‘Roadster Go’ store in Bengaluru which sports fashion kiosks which allow the customers to check the prices of the clothes they’re interested in online and follow it up with a 30-second check-out time.

Ananth Narayanan, CEO of Myntra-Jabong, said these initiatives and push to open more offline stores for its private labels is because online sales are benefitting from offline sales. He explains that the share of sales for Roadster from a particular area grows because that area has a Roadster brick and mortar store. “It’s not like we’re doing any specific marketing around that area, except having the store. This growth is not seen in the other areas and that’s why we say the offline stores are influencing the online sales,” he said.

Satish Meena, senior analyst at Forrester Research said, “Omni-channel is still in a very early stage in India but things are changing. Some other retailers had tried this but sketchy implementation leading to non-adaptability by customers ensured their failure.” He added that with fashion e-commerce companies now beginning to invest in tech, omnichannel will makes its way into other sectors of commerce in India.

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