Talk about an occupational hazard: the moment I step into a store these days I find it almost impossible to stop myself from analyzing the “customer experience” and working out in my head how it could be improved by new smart shopping technologies.
A visit to my optician on Saturday provided ample fodder for such musings. Although he had my basic contact information and test results from when I visited him a few years back, when it came to choosing new frames to house the new lenses I need he was well and truly stuck in the analog era, asking me to choose them from among a pile of catalogs and a selection of items on display.
Since I’m not exactly a fashion expert, I found this an extremely tedious and irritating process. How much easier it would have been if there was a “smart mirror” in the store that could recommend certain frames and show me how they would look on my face. Choosing them would probably have taken a couple of minutes rather than the twenty minutes we spent messing around checking out various frames and pretending we knew which ones lifted me up a few notches in the fashion stakes.
Even though the cost of implementing such smart systems is going down, they still represent a significant investment for small retailers like my optician. However, if he is to remain competitive against both offline and online players, he is going to have to bite the bullet at some time or other.
Better to start experimenting with technology now to see how it can boost customer service and sales rather than wait until it’s too late.