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Beyond retail: Meet Decathlon USA in-store robot which influences marketing

Similar to Decathlon Singapore Lab‘s concept of marrying digital and omnichannel, global sports retailer  Decathlon recently introduced innovative tech to its stores in San Francisco. In an experiential event for the media at its San Francisco Market Street store, a spokesperson said the plan was to reinvent the systems in place and move past positioning Decathlon as a retail store. As such, some of its new cool implementations included the likes of a mobile checkout system and aisle kiosks, as well as an in-store robot called Tally, handling inventory count and RFID tags.

Tally, clearly standing out in the vicinity, navigates around the store and is readily available with product information for shoppers as well as inventory count. This, according to the Decathlon team, allows store associates to allocate more time toward improving interactions with customers and creating a more personal experience.

Speaking to the media, Tony Leon, chief information officer and chief technology officer of Decathlon USA said by analysing massive amounts of data such as item popularity at a given time of day, or in a given shelf location, retailers can utilise autonomous inventory robots to gain eCommerce level insights into customer behaviour and product trends. Decathlon’s robot Tally is also equipped to gather customer data, and creates a profile of the shopper based on purchases and number of visits.

According to Leon, this enables Decathlon to strategise marketing in a way that is more tailored to each individual, as opposed to promoting items which may not be of that particular shopper’s interests.  Keeping in mind the privacy challenge in various countries, he explained that shoppers are given an option to input personal information and allow access to data. He added that the IoT systems at Decathlon are also GDPR-compliant and that the company works towards ensuring security.

Currently, Decathlon is also working with Salesforce’s software company MuleSoft and has rolled out an Anypoint Platform system which looks to deliver connected customer experiences and broaden its reach to new regional markets. By using APIs to connect systems and processes — such as point of sale software, order management, and inventory data — in an application network, the company will now be able to access and reuse applications and data to scale globally.

According to the company, since implementation of the new technology, the mobile checkout system works two times faster than a manual cashier registry. Customers are encouraged to place the items in a basket and slot it in the mobile checkout which scans the products and determines the total amount. Not removing the human element completely, the retail staff are also situated at the checkout systems placed around the store to better assist customers in purchasing the items. The mobile point-of-sale and cashless payment systems ultimately eliminate the need for consumers to go through a traditional checkout lane.

What’s coming and how to measure

“[It is] impossible to predict the future,” Leon said, adding that as a CTO at Decathlon, the team is constantly working on innovative experiences to create new experiments and drive customer purchase.

According to Leon, the success model for Decathlon is in its ability to deliver new experiences, working in an agile way and ability to generate new revenue streams.  Currently, the API-enabled tech systems are only in the US stores but Decathlon aims to test new concepts and potentially expand to other countries globally.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Decathlon Singapore Lab was launched earlier this year, and looks to enhance shoppers’ purchase experience through technology. The lab was built in a bid to integrate sports into one’s lifestyle through providing experience zones to test all the products in-store, free sports sessions at its free-to-play areas. According to the Decathlon spokesperson in Singapore, the brand aims to build long term sustainable relationships with its users by automating repetitive process to enhance productivity. The spokesperson also added that the lab will ultimately “disrupt the conventional retail scene”.

Salesforce paid for the journalist’s trip to Dreamforce 2019, held in San Francisco.

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