An official with Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions said there will be opportunities in 2020 to impact how retailers can become more competitive and deliver better experiences, as well as create more operational efficiency.
“We’re talking about moments that inspire,” said Fredrik Carlegren, executive director of global marketing for the Durham, North Carolina-based company that specializes in integrated in-store solutions.
“When you look at the word experience, it’s really a multitude of individual moments that create that experience, so we have many different facets that we are focusing on.”
Carlegren’s remarks came during a visit with Geoff Welch, Midwest VP for Shelby Publishing, at the recent National Retail Federation “Big Show” in New York.
“The main feature is really where we see technology around a frictionless, seamless store of the future going,” Carlegren said.
He added that there’s also a focus on how to help retailers get out of “being stuck in the middle.”
In response to a question about self-service, Carlegren noted there are two reasons Toshiba is focused on that area.
“One,” he said, “is because it is what consumers expect. They like choice. They like the opportunity to leverage the self-service option. But also from retailers’ perspective to allow them to optimize their labor problems. You see a lot of focus on how to best utilize labor in the store to drive revenue as opposed to focusing on tasks that are maybe more transactional.”
Carlegren went on to note that Toshiba also is focusing on intelligence in self-checkout systems.
“That it is not just providing a self-service option but also gives retailers more control,” he explained. “We do have the software to manage and check the operational statistics but also to set up different configuration levels for shoppers—whether it be loyal shoppers or unknown shoppers—so that you can control the experience, maybe control the level of interventions.”
One of the keys is to create a seamless and easy shopping experience for the consumers.
“The other thing we are focusing on, and showing here at NRF, is what we are doing to focus on the loss-prevention challenge,” Carlegren said. “Because in self-checkout and in self-service, loss prevention is a key challenge. And we have to be able to address that.”
One way Toshiba is addressing that is through new computer vision technology with artificial intelligence that does the real time produce and item recognition at the lane.
“[That] not only provides a better experience on the shopper side, because it can show you the item that’s on the scale, but that also is a theft deterrent,” he said. “Because if you scan an item, you cover a barcode, you put a wrong item on there, it’ll detect that.”
The other way Toshiba is focusing in on the overall value, according to Carlegren, is by not stopping every shopper at a point of intervention.
“We let shoppers continue through, but we are working to track all of the concerns that might be raised during a transaction,” he said. And that can be done from the shelf through the checkout.
Toshiba is looking at technology in the near term, Carlegren said, and “applying that same computer vision in-shelf or in-aisle, where you can see what consumers are picking off the shelf, you can validate that through a self-service checkout and allow customers to get out of the store.”
The technology also can help store management determine what products are selling and where shoppers are spending their time.
As Carlegren explained, “Then you are getting into some really powerful capabilities, because that is really where it is going, [with] some of the smart-shelf technologies and cameras combined, you really can start to get that view … what items have been looked at and then put back as well, which is really interesting when you start to think about it from a CPG perspective.
“Then you really are locking a lot of opportunity for retailers. CPG companies also [want] to understand how consumers are shopping your store … Ultimately though, that translates into better merchandising, store design and creating a differentiation for your consumers.”
Carlegren added that there “really is an opportunity for a win-win scenario.”
“The technology is an enabler, but it’s not the goal obviously,” he said. “The goal is … to use technology that eliminates friction throughout the shopping experience.”
Checkout has traditionally been one of those areas that is a point of friction.
While acknowledging the educational aspects of the program, Carlegren also pointed to operational change or change management.
“One of the things that we are focused on, too, is how to allow retailers to leverage technology—but not change—the consumer shopping behavior,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to educate your consumers to behave differently than is natural to them. So you want to look at how you apply technology that becomes still natural in the way the consumers want to shop. And then you are on the right path.”
And it’s not just the different Toshiba technologies, products and solutions, Carlegren said it’s also “how you put those together…it’s ultimately based on what the outcome is and what you are trying to drive to.”
Among the possibilities Carlegren cited were Toshiba’s Self Checkout System 7, which he said a lot of retailers start with, and the TCx 8 Elevate, which is “a digital commerce platform powered by micro services.”
One of Toshiba’s clients is Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons grocery company.
“We’ve been very, very pleased with partnering with them,” Carlegren said. “And it really is about driving a better customer experience. They are very focused on that.”
To Carlegren, one of the key self-service pieces for Albertsons is intervention.
“Because you have to make that if you are going to offer a self-service option,” he said. “It has to be easy and convenient for the consumer. And you have to also make sure though that you are protecting the retailer’s valuable assets and focusing on minimizing that shrink that can happen otherwise.”