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South African tech transforms retail experiences

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South African tech transforms retail experiences

SA retail has a new weapon to combat the war against its bricks-and-mortar assets. This positive development could help transform retail experiences for an industry that has squirmed as the digitisation of business put its stores in the crosshairs.

It has tried fighting back by piggybacking onto high tech with several high-level concepts. These include the omni-channel, where customers can enjoy the same retail experience across multiple channels, and the 360-degree customer, effectively a retailer’s attempt to have a deep level of insight on their patrons.

Retail has moved on to co-opting high tech to make its stores more efficient, appealing and more responsive to customers. That is why technology’s biggest impacts are now being felt on the ground level. RFID tags are making stock management easier and smart cameras discover hotspots of floor activity.

Now another innovation, developed right here in South Africa, is bringing premium brands back into the shopping aisles. An interactive aisle display called NEO restores premium brands to store aisles, easing bottlenecks and stock issues for customer and retailer alike.

NEO has moved the self-service kiosk on several generations by astute use of IoT and interactive technology. It enhances the retail experience by combining product display on physical and virtual shelves with touchscreen interfaces where customers can conveniently and easily select their preferred items themselves.

This generates a QR ticket, which the customer hands to the cashier when paying for the rest of their shopping. A staff member then collects the product bought via the QR ticket, handing it to the customer as they leave the store or Customer redeems on the way to the exit.

NEO blends technologies to defuse two related problems.

“Retailers are always worried about shrinkage or theft of premium and sensitive consumer goods,” says Ben Jansen van Rensburg, Sales Manager of Quattro Management Systems which designs and markets NEO.

A pack of high-brand shaving blades is quite valuable so they have traditionally been kept away from aisle shelves. Most often, they are placed at the cigarette counter along with other high-value items that are easy targets for theft, such as batteries, neck and face creams, sexual wellbeing products and medication.

Retailers keep as little as 30 percent of premium brands on aisle shelves. The result is a notable drop in sales by double digits. Yet moving items to behind counters does not have a massive effect on theft.

This brand exodus also means that brand captains that attract other products are no longer visible. For example, if you want to sell condoms, it actually doesn’t hurt to be displayed nearby a better-known competitor. Removing premium brands from the aisle also limits the usefulness of retail displays and brand ambassadors. Other issues include placement of baby formula next to cigarettes which retailers disapprove of. They have been trying to work around this but have yet to find any real solutions.

“Brands, retailers and customers all suffer because when products are out of sight – and often out of mind for customers,” says Jansen van Rensburg. “This reduces impulse buys or, if customers were looking for that specific product, might send them to a different retailer.”

By contrast, NEO’s displays show items in all their glory, getting the items back on shelves, eliminating opportunities for shrinkage and giving customers back a proper retail experience. Its touch interface is intuitive for customers and enhances retail by integrating with the retailer’s systems, collating stock movement and even introducing analytics such as predicting when stock will run out.

“We are able to reduce the risk to store owners, without punishing consumers,” says Jansen van Rensburg. “NEO’s stock-control updates every two minutes, so it’s very unlikely a consumer will select an item and discover that it’s out of stock.”

This South African-made innovation works so effectively that stores which have adopted NEO systems are reporting double and triple-digit changes in their sales of these once-exiled brands. NEO enables retailers to capitalise on their greatest feature and something online stores cannot replicate – the physical shopping experience.


Edited by Daniëlle Kruger

Follow Daniëlle Kruger on Twitter

Follow IT News Africa on Twitter

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