That Weird Guy at the Mall — And the Digital Technology That Helps Me Fit In.

You’ve seen me at the mall. It might have been last week or a few before that, but I noticed when you glanced sideways with that “What’s-up-with-that-guy?” expression. I was the one standing just outside the store, peering in as if I was casing the joint, craning my neck over the other shoppers while scoping things out.

I say “other shoppers” because make no mistake: I was, in fact, on a mission to buy. I just happen to be one of those people who want minimal interaction in the process. I’d rather see for myself whether a retailer has the type or style of merchandise I’m looking for before I get into a “Can-I-help-you?” conversation. So I always scan the displays before I step in.

It’s not that I’m anti-social or don’t appreciate good service. I just like to think of myself as… efficient (yeah, that’s it). So if I do see something on-target and I venture inside, I really want things to go smoothly. My choice is to get hands-on with the product I’m after, and to then speak with an associate only if and when I need to.

With Full Service or Self-Service, Seamless Service Rules!

Now maybe you’re thinking: “Man, this guy has issues!”  But I’m willing to bet that, as shoppers, you and I want pretty much want the same thing: to be served and supported on our own terms—whatever those terms may be. Like you, I want a seamless experience. Whether with full service in your case or self-service in mine, neither one of us wants to be confronted, interrupted, confused or delayed. And we both want to be able to get a clear view of our options so we can make an informed decision that’s right for us.

Like you, I want a seamless experience. Whether with full service or self-service, neither one of us wants to be confronted, interrupted, confused or delayed.

So even if you don’t get my approach to shopping, you’ll probably share my interest in a new digital kiosk that was introduced at NRF. It combines RFID-tagged merchandise with a large backlit screen. As a product is picked up off the rack, the display automatically shows the product with information about price, color and style options, and whether it’s available in the store or in nearby locations.

The system also shows alternative and complementary items with drill-down details. It tracks pick-ups, conversions and other metrics that can feed back into the retailer’s merchandising and marketing operations. Information on my engagement with the products even shows up on my next visit to their website as recently viewed items. You can check out the kiosk on this short video.

The Best of Both Worlds

This type of kiosk delivers the best of both the physical and online worlds, right in the store. It lets me get up close with the merchandise while giving me personalized point-and-click product and ordering information on the spot. And it will call over an associate if I need to learn or do more.

To my way of thinking, any retailer using this technology knows that effective customer engagement doesn’t necessarily mean deep personal involvement. Instead, it simply means understanding and responding to their customers’ preferences, whatever they may be. And that’s smart. After all, when a retailer properly manages my experience in the store (and online), as well as my order, they fulfill my expectations. And in the end, that’s all I really care about. Any retailer that can do that consistently is more than halfway to getting and keeping my business.

So the next time you see me peering inside a store and there’s one of those kiosks on the floor, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be going in. Just don’t alert security before I do.

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