Brick-and-mortar retailers are under assault by smartphone-wielding shoppers, who are using connected gadgets to find better deals at other stores, or even online, for less. Indeed, retailers who have come out with their own apps are often driving their in-store customers to the online channel for purchases.
The challenge for merchants in the fast-growing smartphone world is remaining relevant to in-store customers, who have more ways than ever to comparison shop and spend their dollars elsewhere. That’s where AisleBuyer, a Boston start-up, comes in. The company has an app by the same name that is pioneering the work of mobile, in-store, self-check-out. Like dozens of other shopping apps, AisleBuyer allows users to scan a product’s barcode for product information. But it differs in its system by letting users purchase a product right from the aisle, allowing them to walk out of the store with their purchased item instead of standing in a check-out line.
Andrew Paradise, CEO and founder of AisleBuyer, said the app merges the ease of use of online shopping like quick checkouts and information with the tactile, hands-on benefits of in-store shopping. When deployed in stores, AisleBuyer has the ability to greatly improve abandonment rates, or situations where shoppers give up on a purchase in-store, and also opens up significant opportunities for delivering offers on additional items.
“The reality is mobile devices are uniting the offline and online worlds, and stores have to come up with a value offering for users,” Paradise told me earlier this week. “Our goal with AisleBuyer is to combine the two worlds (online and in-store) together and keep the best of each elements.”
AisleBuyer, which is available on iOS and Android devices, has been in trials at four Boston locations of Magic Beans, a toy and baby product retailer. The company plans on announcing partnerships in the coming weeks with national retailers and merchants representing 9,000 locations. The way AisleBuyer works is users can scan the barcode of a product for information. If they like it, they can add it to their cart or buy it right there with a credit card on file with AisleBuyer. AisleBuyer provides a user with a confirmation screen, which the customer shows a clerk on their way out. Customers have options for an email receipt or a printed receipt at a check-out station. For consumers, it means not having to spend time in lines, which is often one of the main reasons why customers give up on purchases.
For retailers, it’s a way to remove barriers to purchases and leverages their advantages in providing hands-on experience with products. It can be a more immediate option to speed up checkouts as they wait for NFC, or near-field communications radios, to become a mainstream solution for mobile payments. Paradise said retailers are able to create their own branded apps for in-store checkouts, and when consumers scan an item or add something to their cart, merchants can offer a discount on a related product, upselling much like a salesperson would do. With each retail sale, AisleBuyer gets a piece of the pie by taking a small cut of each purchase.
I think AisleBuyer, provided it gets plenty of distribution, can be an effective way for retailers to improve the in-store experience. Overall, I think the concept will be eventually deployed by many stores looking to improve their check-out process. We’ve already seen many supermarkets add self check-out lanes. It would be easy for them to implement an app like AisleBuyer, extending the ease of use of self check-outs while building a better relationship with consumers in their stores.
AisleBuyer is missing a comparison shopping feature to check competing prices, which could help drive consumers elsewhere. That may be by design to keep consumers in store. But I think in general, this type of option will also force retailers to bring their online and in-store pricing more in line. Users will still have options to buy things at cheaper prices online, but they may still pay a reasonable premium if they can get something immediately, in a simple hassle-free way.
Ultimately, AisleBuyer shows retailers can embrace, not fear, the power of smartphones. They can leverage them as well to good effect. The smart retailers should take note of this and consider how they might prepare for a mobile self-checkout world.
Here’s a video of Paradise demonstrating AisleBuyer:
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