SmartAisle and The Rise of Voice-Powered Retail
Ethan Goodman, Co-Founder, SmartAisle
There are three converging retailer pain points and dynamics that have created a compelling and important market opportunity:
- First, there’s an historic labor shortage in the US – for the first time ever, there are more job openings than people to fill them, and this is undoubtedly impacting retailers’ ability to put high quality workers on the floor to interact with shoppers.
- Second, The “Amazon Effect” is putting intense pressure on brick & mortar retailers to deliver a user experience that meets or exceeds that of E-Commerce – for example, better personalization – or risk losing trips and sales to Amazon and other pure plays.
- And third, shoppers are indicating that they are increasingly open to engaging with voice-based virtual assistants in the in-store environment in favor of summoning a human sales associates – 52%, in fact, according to a recent report from AdWeek.
So, we created an innovative new solution to help retailers address these challenges head-on. Meet SmartAisle, the world’s first voice-powered in-store shopping assistant.
SmartAisle brings the power and simplicity of voice technology to brick & mortar retail stores in a completely unique and ground-breaking way.
Specifically, it is a patent-pending technology platform that combines an intuitive voice interface, connected LED lights embedded on the shelf and a powerful artificial intelligence engine on the back-end to help shoppers with product selection and education at the First Moment of Truth.
It’s incredibly easy for shoppers to use:
- First, shoppers see a call-to-action on at-shelf signage with a prompt for what to say to initiate the voice assistant – for example, “Alexa, open SmartAisle.”
- Next, they answer a series of simple questions audibly about their product selection criteria – for example, in whiskey, their desired type (bourbon, rye or scotch) and a target price range (like, under $50).
- And finally, our algorithm selects up to 3 recommended products; reads out the product names, descriptions and other relevant information (like ratings & reviews); and lights their position on the shelf for easy identification.
Beyond providing an undeniably cool & novel experience to shoppers, the value our platform can deliver to retailers, as I insinuated at the beginning, is significant. SmartAisle can do everything from enhance at-shelf navigation, selection and education to help close the sale; to capture and report incredibly valuable data about shoppers’ at-shelf behaviors and interactions, and allow retailers to optimize their staffing decisions – not necessarily replace human associates, but rather augment their capabilities and allow them to focus on other key tasks
And we think SmartAisle does these things better than any available competitive options today, bet it:
- Store associates, who in most cases have limited product knowledge, and whom shoppers sometimes avoid because they’re seeking discretion or don’t want to be “sold.”
- Be it traditional at-shelf signage, which can only deliver static content and can’t capture shopper engagement data.
- Or be it mobile apps, websites or bots, which require shoppers to have necessary hardware, software or browsers, and a reliable internet connection, and whose screen-based experiences can create barriers to speed.
At this point I’m sure you have all sorts of questions. Here’s my best effort to address the ones most frequently asked by clients and prospects alike:
Do I have to use Amazon Alexa as the underlying AI platform?
- No. SmartAisleSM is platform-agnostic, and can be built using other comparable AI like Google Assistant.
Has it been executed in a live store environment?
- Yes. We successfully ran a 2-month test with a boutique wine & spirts store in New York City, and just signed a contract for a 5-store test with a national liquor store retailer on the West Coast (set to launch this December).
How does it perform?
- Very well. During our 2-month test, SmartAisleSM drove a 20% YOY category lift for our client, and shoppers told us it provided an experience that was “noticeably better”, “easier to use” and “more entertaining” than normal.
Does it only work for Alcohol/Beverage?
- No. SmartAisleSM is perfect for any retailer aiming to elevate the in-store shopping experience, particularly those in heavy-assortment, high-consideration and/or premium-priced categories like Beauty/Cosmetics, Electronics, Fresh & packaged Grocery, Health & Wellness, Home Hardware, Pet Care and Fashion/Apparel.
How complex is it to execute?
- Not very. A typical engagement takes 3 months to launch from contract signature to go-live, we handle the installation and all needed maintenance, and the only infrastructure requirement of clients is accessible power.
How is it priced?
- For the time being, pricing is still determined on a case by case basis. But we’re planning to implement a standard per store, per month model in the coming months.
Our vision is to be the world’s biggest, best and most indispensable network of digital in-store shopping assistants – installed in tens of thousands of stores, serving tens of millions of shoppers, and generating millions of dollars in incremental sales for our clients – and we hope you’ll join us on that journey.
About the Author
SmartAisle is the world's first voice-powered in-store shopping assistant. It is an innovative, patent-pending platform that combines an intuitive voice interface, LED lights at shelf, and a powerful artificial intelligence engine to provide a vastly improved customer experience at the all-important point of purchase. The platform guides shoppers through an interactive experience that asks relevant questions, offers product information and ultimately makes a recommendation, bringing the power of voice technology to brick & mortar retail stores in an entirely unique and groundbreaking way. Click here to learn more!
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