By Marla Ellerman
The technology innovator reimagines five aspects of retail that can deliver a better customer shopping experience online, offline and out-of-line tomorrow.
At the annual NRF show in New York City, a record-breaking 40,000 attendees filled the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center last month. Among the 800 exhibitors and 200 sessions, Epson America's booth captured the essence of this year's "2020 Vision" theme, which entailed giving attendees a glimpse into the retail store of the future.
More than just a display of the latest technology with faster speeds and feeds over the previous year, Epson invited visitors to conduct transactions using the latest point of sale solutions in traditional checkout lanes as well as placing online, offline—and even out-of-line—orders in addition to simulating a BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store) experience.
Here are five highlights of the technology solutions displayed, segmented by theme:
1. Reimagine Digital Signage. The digital signage market is exploding with projected growth from $20.8 billion in 2019 to $29.6 billion by 2024 (a 7.3% CAGR), according to research from MarketsandMarkets. While this technology elicits images of LCD monitors hanging in storefront windows or aisle endcaps, the store of the future incorporates Epson LightScene laser projectors to create a much more immersive experience. Working with projection-based digital signage company, Glass Media, the Epson projectors displayed moving images on walls, countertops and even on glass surfaces, highlighting the projectors' ability to blend seamlessly into any environment while illuminating and projecting on virtually any surface or material, unleashing dynamic, experiential content for signage and décor. Unrestricted by screen dimensions and pixel densities, the laser display can be easily updated and used in a variety of ways to enhance the customer experience.
2. Reimagine In-Store Pickup. At another station, Epson showed what a BOPIS experience might soon look like. The way it worked was that a customer checks in a BOPIS kiosk station by scanning their ID or barcode receipt. Immediately, the POS system confirms the order and displays (via laser projection) the customer’s name along with their position in the waiting queue. As soon as the store associate places the merchandise on the countertop, the display on the wall is updated, and the customer sees additional details about their order projected next to their order (e.g., "Thank you for your order, Tom!"). The customer has the option to self-checkout at the kiosk using a form of electronic payment, or they can take their merchandise to the front of the store for a cashier-assisted checkout.
3. Reimagine Retail Countertops. The store of the future doesn’t necessarily have a larger footprint than its predecessors; instead, it may simply use the space within the four walls more effectively. For example, one of Epson’s displays highlighted the company’s latest OmniLink all-in-one printer, the TM-T88VI-DT2, which doubles as a high-powered PC. The printer comes with a built-in Windows 10 or Linux OS, and it can be configured with a Celeron, i3, or i5 Intel processor as well as solid-state storage (SSD) options ranging from 32GB to 256GB. The printer also comes with 13 ports, including USB 3.0 (6), HDMI, USB Type C, USB 2.0, serial, VGA, audio and a cash drawer port. It can connect to a POS terminal, cash drawer, and multiple peripherals (e.g., digital scale, laser projector) simultaneously while taking up 70% less countertop space than a traditional POS system.
4. Reimagine Back Store Operations. Although the front-of-store technologies often get the most attention in retail, back office operations such as billing and operations, management tools and reporting are every bit as vital to the business and must evolve along with the rest of the store. At the heart of the back office of the future is Epson’s OmniLink Merchant Services (OMS), which is a cloud portal and business intelligence gateway equipped with an API to a full spectrum of cloud services via Epson’s OMS-enabled printers. The appeal of the OMS platform is that it enables retailers to add new services more quickly and less expensively. Previously, if a retailer wanted to implement a customer loyalty program or data analytics solution, for instance, it might have to replace or upgrade its POS. A POS receipt printer initiative, on the other hand, can be accomplished in a few weeks or months at a fraction of the price of a POS overhaul. Not only is it a cost-effective and practical decision for retailers of all sizes, but it's also a much easier sell for VARs and ISVs.
One of the most intriguing takeaways from Epson's vision for the retail store of the future was that none of the stations featured technologies and solutions that were reserved only for Fortune 100 retail giants. Many of these technologies are a fit for tier-2 and even tier-3 merchants. Even better is the fact that these aren't visions for a far distant future — they're all available right now.