Retailers such as M&S need to commit to understanding what it is that customers want from digital technologies, both in store and online
➨ M&S is trailing an AR wayfinding app in a store dedicated to trying out new technologies
➨ List & Go enables customers to compile a shopping list of products and then follow directions to their locations within a store
➨ It was developed by London-based AR startup Dent Reality
There are few sectors as well placed to take advantage of consumer interest in the ‘metaverse’, whether that is a 3D internet, a mixture of physical and digital realities or something more, than retail.
The pandemic put huge pressure on ecommerce channels in 2020 and, although the world has since returned to brick and mortar stores, retailers are keen to continue their digital transformations so that they are better prepared to meet demand while keeping customers loyal.
UK retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) has publicly committed to doubling down on digital technologies, with chief executive officer Steve Rowe revealing in late 2020 that many of the changes implemented as a result of the pandemic would be made permanent.
But simply reacting to status quo-busting events is not the plan for retailers such as M&S. They want to use them to attract and retain customers, online and in the real world.
Take the example of M&S, which is now trailing an augmented reality (AR) wayfinding app in a store dedicated to trying out new technologies.
The app, known as List & Go, enables customers to compile a shopping list of products and then follow directions to their locations within a store.
Developed by London-based AR startup Dent Reality, which raised $3.4 million of funding last year, the smartphone app works much like any navigation software, providing arrows and a compass to point customers in the direction of their desired products.
A very surreal day. Our AR shopping app is live at M&S pic.twitter.com/GDhPO1LxzE— Andrew Hart (@AndrewHartAR) January 19, 2022
M&S is testing the “UK first of its kind” tool in one of five of its digital test stores and hopes to expand the trial to the other four.
Although the retailer has not confirmed the app will get a full launch, it hopes customer feedback will prove that its “fantastic product ranges are always displayed at their best and easy to find”.
We will be watching trials like this one with interest, to both gauge customer feedback and retailers’ commitment to rolling them out.
Benefits could include giving digitally native customers the tools they need to navigate stores, locate their desired products and even learn more about them, without having to interact with staff. For the introverts among us and like self-service checkouts, this will be welcome.
These kinds of tools will also put less pressure on staff working in busy stores. They do not need to be experts in every kind of product if customers have libraries full of information at their fingertips.
For retailers, differentiating their offerings from the competition will grab headlines in the short term, but they also need to commit to understanding what it is that customers want from digital technologies, both in store and online.
Images: Dent Reality