a b s t r a c t
In recent years, the importance of an enjoyable experience during the shopping activity increased. As a consequence, many researchers are focusing on the best application of enjoyable elements in the points of sale in order to maintain existing consumers and attract new ones.
The aim of this paper is to analyze how the introduction of advanced technologies modifies the retailing context and affects consumers shopping experience. In particular, three aspects of our results emerge from a theoretical standpoint: new advantages for retailers (the possibility to achieve fast information on consumer behavior and preferences); the improvement of the point of sale; and the positive influences on consumers shopping experience.
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In recent years, the importance of an enjoyable experience during the shopping activity increased (Kim, 2001; Kozinets et al., 2002; Bäckström and Johansson, 2006). In fact, several authors carried out that consumers who enjoy the shopping experience engage more purchases if compared to those who not (Kim and Kim, 2008). The shopping experience, therefore, can be influenced by the fun provided in the store (Diep and Sweeney, 2008). In particular, this experience plays an important role in the consumers satisfaction process. Indeed, an entertainment context seems to have a stronger impact on consumers satisfaction than a non-entertainment context (Söderlund and Julander, 2009). In fact, it can add value to the goods and services provided in the store (Newsom et al., 2009; Roussos et al., 2003).
Moreover, the level of entertainment is a powerful tool to improve processes, by enhancing users experience. For instance, it is very effective for facilitating learning processes (Cutr!ı et al., 2008; Pantano and Tavernise, 2009).
In this scenario, many studies are focusing on the best application of enjoyable elements in the points of sale in order to entertain more consumers, improve their shopping experience and communicate the brand in new and attractive ways (Burke, 2002; Chang and Burke, 2007; Michon et al., 2006). To achieve this task, several firms added in their stores entertainment elements as bar, gyms and restaurants capable to enjoy existing consumers, as well as to attract new ones.
Meaningful example are the Armani brand, which added in its most important Italian store (in Milan, Italy) the famous Nobu
Restaurant, and the Ralph Lauren brand which created the Ralph Lauren Restaurant in Chicago (USA), where each element of the environment reflects and reminds the brand style. With the same purpose, also other luxury firms are extending their signature label into the landmark hotel (especially in exclusive places): for instance, BVULGARI opened a hotel in Milan and another one in Bali, and Versace opened the Palazzo Versace in the Australian Gold Coast.
Hence, it’s emerging new vision of the shopping places: the shopping places as entertaining places. The current advances in technologies carried out new powerful tools to improve in-store consumers experience.
The aim of this paper is to analyze how the introduction of advanced technologies modifies the retailing context, by provid- ing new enjoyable elements, and how these technologies can affect consumers shopping experience.
The first part is devoted to the most used technologies in the points of sale; the second one analyzes the main implications of these technologies for marketers and the possible influences on consumers behavior.
2. Advanced technologies in retailing
The main characteristic of the current technologies applied to retailing is the interactivity. In fact, these technologies give consumers the possibility to interact with the products in the stores as in a videogame. For this reason, the interactive technologies (such as 3D virtual models) have been already exploited by several e-retailers in order to enhance consumers shopping experience (Kim et al., 2007; Yoo et al., 2010). Furthermore, these tools can be used also in the real stores with similar results.
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Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services
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The advanced technologies applied to retailing are usually based on pervasive environments and mobile and ubiquitous computing (Wasinger, 2006; Roussos et al., 2003). Pervasive devices are often embedded into a service infrastructure, like mobiles and RFID tags and sensors. In this case, information like users profiles, items description and data from sensors are synchronized and shared over the network of devices, in this way the database is constantly updated.
RFID is a radio frequency identification. It is an efficient automatic identification technology for a variety of applications (Roussos and Kostakos, 2009). According to Ustundag and Tanyas, 2009, the RFID is made up of an unique identification number assigned to a particular item. A tag (the identity number) is attached to the item through a chip, which provides the unique identification number. As a consequence, the RFID readers collect signals from multiple tags and process this data through the data processing system. This data contain the product information.
Furthermore, RFID is especially used in the management of the supply chain to trace products.
From the consumers point of view, RFID allows them to locate the products in the store, which have been previously labeled with RFID tags, and achieve other information. In fact, the products tags can refer consumers to information held in the products database that they can access through special tools.
These systems are usually based on shopping trolleys and handled devices, equipped with particular drivers which recog- nize RFID tags of each product (Hansmann, 2003; Schneider, 2004).
A meaningful example of RFID application in the point of sale is available at Galeria Kaufhof Essen (Germany). In this mall, each product is tagged with an RFID, which reminds to a database with more details. Consumers can use a particular Personal Digital Assistant (a portable RFID readers), which shows on the display the information related to the products (Fig. 1).
Due to its low cost and ease to manage, RFID is largely used in the development of shopping assistant systems, in order to support consumers during the presence in the store.
2.2. Shopping assistant systems
The most used shopping assistant systems are usually based on the shopping trolleys available in the stores or on the consumers mobile devices (smart-phone, pocket pc, iPhone, etc.).
In the evaluation process of different alternatives, these particular tools are capable to support consumers, by allowing them to fast compare different proposals, and providing detailed and complete information on products and services.
From the retailers point of view, these systems allow them to know the quantity of the product on the shelves in real time; this information can be used to renew stock in a more efficient way, avoiding waits and obstacles for consumers. The consequence is an increasing of both the service level and the consumers propensity to buy, as well as a general increasing of the qualitative perception of product, shop and brand (Burke, 2002).
Moreover the shopping assistant systems can solve the problem related to the planning of the target advertising to specific consumers, which is a key factor in the consumers satisfaction process (Iyer et al., 2005), by delivering high customized information.
The most meaningful example are the IBM Personal Shopping Assistant and the mobile shopping assistant (MSA) (Pantano, 2009). One of the main advantages of these systems is the multimodality of the interaction (Pantano, 2009). This modality makes the interaction between consumers and system more efficient (Oviatt, 2008). In this way, the shopping assistants create a new standout which engages the consumers and enhances the brand.
In particular, the IBM Personal Shopping Assistant (Fig. 2) consists of a mobile tablet (8.400 display), a bluetooth handheld scanner, a cart mount, a charging rack for the storage of the tablet and an infrared beacon (located throughout store) for providing products location information.
The system allows consumers to: choose favorite items, add items to the shopping list and find items in the store. Furthermore, it highlights (graphically) the products, allows to visualize (graphically) the products on the basket and products on sale, as well as to find their exact location. In this way, it becomes an interactive shopping guide, which supports consumers during their presence in the store. Hence, consumers can save time and enjoy the more efficient shopping experience.
The MSA, realized by the METRO Group Future Store Initiative, instead, consists of a new application for consumers own mobile equipped with a camera, which allows the interaction between consumers and the products available in the store (Fig. 3).
The mobile camera allows to scan the product barcode, which allows the interaction with the products focusing the camera on each good. Afterwards, the item can be added to the shopping basked and consumers can ask for additional products informa- tion. Furthermore, the system displays the scanned products, and gives consumers the possibility to remove the single item, visualize the total cost of the purchases and search for other items in the store.
2.3. Smart mirror
To date, several researches are focusing on the development of smart mirrors, which should be available in the point of sale, but
Fig. 1. Application of RFID at Galeria Kaufhof Essen (Germany). Source: METRO Group Future Store Initiative.
Fig. 2. The IBM Personal Shopping Assistant. Source: IBM.
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only few prototypes are currently available on a limited number of stores.
The smart mirror consists of an integrated software and a hardware system which recognizes consumer face and body by a web cam and reproduces graphically him/her while wearing a certain product.
A meaningful prototype has been realized by Acep Group for optical products (Fig. 4).
This particular system allows consumer to visualize how he/she looks in any frame of the store and to simulate the effect produced by the good.
Another meaningful example is the smart mirror developed by de Tommaso Factory. This factory produces handcraft shoes and introduced in its stores a particular technology based on the technique of multidimensional scanning (Fig. 5). In particular, this technique is capable to visualize via computer an accurate image of the consumer’ foot geometry. As consequence, the factory can create the plastic form and models used by artisans to produce
the shoes which better fit the consumers foot, and realize the best customized final product.
This system can be located in the stores all over the world. In this way, everywhere it is possible to scan the consumer foot, send factory the information and start the production of the crafted product, made to measure, which will be sent to the consumer address.
In this scenario, some qualitative researches carried out that consumers have a positive response on the introduction of new technologies in traditional stores (Pantano, 2009). In fact, due to the level of innovation, the presence of these technologies attracts consumers attention and allows them to live new exciting in-store experiences. Furthermore, the shopping experience becomes more efficient because the systems support and guide consumers during the shopping activity, providing customized messages and suggestion, and satisfying their information requests.
The current advances in technologies modify the store appearance and the consumers in-store behavior. In fact, they influence the course of searching for, choosing and comparing products, as well as interacting with the products and providing marketers new tools to understand consumer preferences and needs.
In particular, three aspects of our results emerge from a theoretical standpoint: (1) the possibility (for retailers) to achieve fast information on consumer behavior, (2) the improvement of the point of sale by introducing new entertainment tools and (3) the positive influences on consumers shopping experience.
(1) The possibility to achieve fast information on consumer behavior. Nowadays, several researches show the increasing companies need to be constantly informed on consumers preferences and requests in order to create strategies capable to succeed in the current changing market (Zahay and Peltier, 2008). In this perspective, the technologies presented are capable to collect, organize and manage information related to consumers behavior, which can be accessed and updated constantly and rapidly by retailers. In this way, they can have an efficient feedback on consumer response about products, services and retailing strategies. In particular, the interaction between consumers and the technologies provides information about consumers prefer- ences (i.e. about their favorite color, etc.), useful for improving the quality of the products in the store, and shows their own opinion about the shopping experience (i.e. which kind of messages influenced more the buying behavior). In fact, most of these technologies are connected to databases with information related to the products, consumers and related purchases. In this way, an efficient match between databases allows to investigate consumers preferences, as well as the effectiveness of the use of the technologies and their willing to use. Furthermore, the use of these technologies allow to decrease the cost of interaction between consumer and firm, necessary for the creation of a product/service which best fits consumers needs (Syam et al., 2005) and, as a consequence, supports the development of new customized marketing strategies.
(2) Improvement of the point of sale. The introduction of advanced technologies in the stores modifies their appearance, in terms of style, layout and atmosphere. In fact, the core of the store becomes the
Fig. 3. The mobile shopping assistant (MSA). Source: METRO Group Future Store Initiative.
Fig. 4. A prototype of smart mirror for optical products. Source: Acep Group.
Fig. 5. A smart mirror for handcraft shoes. Source: ACL de Tommaso.
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technology, which provides new services for consumers and communicates new customized messages. In fact, the stores appearance seems more technological and futuristic. In particular, new elements capable to stimulate consumers attention and interest are introduced, by providing a new merchandise layout, which can also influence the consumers expectations about the search efficiency. Furthermore, these elements can affect the consumers in-store experience (Puccinelli et al., 2009). In addition, in this new environment consumers can play with products as in a videogame, due to the high level of interactivity of the technologies. In particular, consumers can ask the system for more customized information, virtually taste products, focus on some details, compare products and gain useful information for supporting the choice of the best good. In this way, these technologies introduce new enjoyable tools in the stores and, due to their innovative characteristic, they are capable to stimulate consumers interests. The shopping experience, therefore, could become a funny experience for a larger target of population. For instance, the male population is not usually attracted by the conventional stores, so that they often prefer the e-stores (Otnes and McGrath, 2001), but the presence of these technologies is capable to attract also this segment of population, by providing tools which can satisfy more their requests of the marketplace than a conventional point of sale. In fact, the aim of these technologies is to make the store more comfortable for consumers, by providing services in a funny way. As a consequence, they can spend more time, engage more purchases and a more frequency of buy.
(3) Influences on shopping experience. The introduction of advanced technologies affects the traditional decision-making process based on five steps: need recognition (1), search for information (2), pre-purchase evaluation (3), purchase/consumption (4), post consumption evaluation (5) (Solomon and Stuart, 2005; Blackwell et al., 2006).
In particular, it is possible to analyze how these technologies affect the different steps in order to understand their possible influence on the consumers shopping experience:
(1) Need recognition: these technologies can inform consumers about the new arrivals in the stores, and suggest them the products capable to stimulate the emerging of new needs;
(2) Search of information: the technologies become a useful tool for consumers to achieve fast and detailed information about the products in the store, as well as for a further comparison among products;
(3) Pre-purchase evaluation: on the basis of information achieved through these technologies, consumers have new useful elements to make their choice. In this way, the technologies support the consumers decision-making;
(4) Purchase/consumption: these technologies are capable to support consumers during the payment, for instance, they can automatically calculate the total cost of the purchases and show the different payment options. If consumer enjoyed, the shopping experience can decide to engage more purchases;
(5) Post consumption evaluation: the presented technologies affect the consumers evaluation process. In fact, they improve the provided services and, as consequence, the consumer satisfac- tion; therefore, they are capable to influence consumers loyalty to the point of sale. Moreover the total service quality improves, due to the consumers active participation in the
service co-production (Fischer et al., 2009; Bharadwaj et al., 2009; Grant et al., 2010). Indeed, the interactivity of the technologies allows them to interact with the products of the store and to search customized information. Furthermore, the technologies provide a high and fast customized service, which allows consumers to save time.
In this way, the shopping experience becomes more interesting and exciting and as consequence it can affect positively the consumer buying behavior.
In addition, consumers can choose to exploit or not the new technologies in the point of sale. In particular, this option could produce more positive attitudes towards using the system and more positive attitudes towards the shop which propose this service (Reinders et al., 2008).
This research analyzes the most used advanced technologies in retail context in order to shed light on how they can affect the in- store shopping experience. The results suggest that consumers have a positive response of their introduction, due to the presence of new enjoyable elements. Importantly, consumers are willing to engage more purchases due to the fun provided in the store.
In this article, we presented advanced technologies that guide, support, or even enable consumer in-store behavior, as well as advanced media applications that act as knowledge management systems for knowledge communication of products (in addition to the traditional merchandise layout).
Hence, we can conclude that the introduction of new technologies in stores (1) modifies the appearance of the point of sales, (2) improves shopping activity by providing new elements which can attract and excite more consumers, (3) influences their subsequent buying behavior, (4) as well as provide new tools also which can satisfy a wider segment of population.
These findings provide insights for retailers, who can increase their share of market by exploiting the potentialities of these technologies. As such, they have important implications for the study of consumers–computer interaction in the retailing con- texts.
5. Limitation and future works
It should be emphasized that new technologies influences can come into play in different ways, according to the familiarity with the specified technology, products and consumers attitude to buy besides what was investigated here.
In addition, in the present research we analyzed only few technologies, which have been introduced in the stores separately. In fact, it is possible that the integration of more technologies in the same place may influence consumers in a different way, but how the increasing number of these technol- ogies affect consumers behavior is not fully investigated. More- over, although we focused upon the most used technologies in this study, the results would likely extend to other technologies, as well as to the consumers response to them.
Indeed, despite the increasing researches on the application of advanced technologies to retailing, the researches focusing on the consumers acceptance of these systems in retailing contexts are still underdeveloped. Several authors focus on the enjoyment as an important factor which influencing users to use new technologies (Ha and Stoel, 2009), but most of the researches on consumer acceptance of new technologies focus only on
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the e-tailing context, with the purpose to understand how to improve the e-shopping sites (Ha and Stoel, 2009) or, in some cases, on the introduction of just one (Müller-Seitz et al., 2009). In order to understand the detailed factors influencing consumers acceptance, it is possible to exploit the use of the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) (Davies, 1989). In particular, the model allows to explore which factors affect behavioral intention to use these systems. Furthermore, the model suggests how the variables perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use deter- mine the intention to use the systems. Hence, the model can focus on the key questions (Kim and Garrison, 2009): (1) will perceived ease of use have a positive effect on behavioral intention to use the new technologies in retailing context? (2) Will perceived ease of use have a positive effect on perceived usefulness? (3) Will perceived usefulness have a positive effect on behavioral inten- tion to use the new technologies in retailing?
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