How technology enables retailers to navigate autonomous store experiences

The pandemic has greatly shifted consumers’ preferences for shopping, whether this be physically or online. The increased prevalence of omnichannel solutions has forced businesses to rethink their approach to keeping consumers engaged when shopping in-store.

With digitalisation in the retail sector gaining significant momentum, retailers are increasingly exploring new technologies to streamline services and simplify store operations.

Axis Communications partnered with Milieu Insight to conduct a study into consumer preferences and expectations around physical shopping. Some of the key findings include:

  • There was a 12-per-cent decrease in the intention to visit stores post-pandemic.
  • 44 per cent of consumers would prefer contactless payments and knowing that the store meets social distancing requirements.
  • Five in 10 expect unmanned stores to have self-checkouts and human assistance rather than being completely unmanned.

With increased consumer confidence in contactless shopping and check-out experiences, Axis Communications is assisting retailers to adopt new measures to make the unmanned store experience a reality.

Unmanned stores are physical stores usually with few to no cashiers or staff, in which the store relies on various technology and machine automation to function. With many retailers eager to embrace such a design, the security and privacy of unmanned sites remain a high concern. This is where physical security technologies can play a significant role in protecting a site while supporting operations.

With safety and security, a top priority when considering this concept, by using video analytics, retailers can carefully monitor the movement of people in stores. The use of seamless security technologies such as this reduces the need for human contact and allows stores to comply with social distancing measures through various solutions such as store occupancy control. 

As consumers become more receptive to self-service technologies, with 44 per cent expecting to see contactless payments and self-checkout terminals in place, IP based surveillance systems act as a vital foundation for any unmanned store. With heightened threats of theft and robbery due to reduced staffing, video surveillance can provide proactive alerts to any incidents as well as to detect non-scan at point-of-sale areas including checkout terminals.

Additionally, shoppers seek stores that are easy to navigate, with a short checkout time and flexible store hours. Access control mechanisms at the entrance and exit points enable smooth, touch-free access to customers to enable operational efficiency and 24/7 accessibility. An example of this is using a QR code system. QR codes are often used as a credential for temporary and time-limited access to manage entry for visitors, employees, or deliveries, where overcrowding can be prevented, and security can be easily monitored.

With varying customer expectations for unmanned stores, customers ultimately seek a service-

minded experience that can offer help and advice whenever available. In the shop itself, an IP audio system can welcome customers via network speakers and play targeted advertising messages to create a more humanised shopping experience. 

Video intercom systems can also help with providing 24/7 contactless assistance for customer queries and advice, should a staff member not be present. By addressing concerns on emergency help and assistance, shoppers can feel more confident about visiting and will aim to increase overall customer satisfaction.

“At Axis, we take a highly personalised approach to aid the development of an unmanned store. With the use of various technologies coupled with those offered by our partners, we aim to address retailer concerns arising from the pandemic and redefine unmanned store strategies

to elevate safety and security considerations as well as optimise operational efficiency,” explains Wai King Wong, Regional Director at Axis Communications.

Click to download the full research report here

About the author: Rodney Guinto is Key Account Manager – End Customer at Axis Communications.