The store of the future is already here as retailers up their tech game

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Robots roaming the aisles. Windows that allow you to tap and shop while the store is closed.

You don’t have to wait on the store of the future. In many ways, it’s already here.

Retailers ramped up the tech this holiday season, offering mobile checkout and apps that pinpoint the exact spot to find the toy you were looking for. But the bells and whistles are more than a seasonal perk.

From holograms that greet shoppers at the door to a robot that alerts workers when products are running low, technology has become a prime battleground in the fierce fight to woo shoppers year round.

From holograms that greet shoppers at the door to a robot that alerts workers when products are running low, technology has become a prime battleground in the fierce fight to woo shoppers year round.

“How do you create a shopping experience in store that Amazon created as a precedent online?”  says Justine Santa Cruz, senior vice president of retail and enterprise at Satisfi Labs, a software technology company. “Now every consumer expects a certain type of ease when they’re shopping, so I think retailers are implementing new technology to be able to remove any and all sort of friction from the shopping experience.”

Home Depot customers can type an item into the store app and call up a map that leads them to where they can find the light fixture or cabinet they need.

Retailer Fred Segal partnered with Mastercard in April to enable customers visiting its West Hollywood flagship to shop for clothing by tapping the storefront window. To pay, they could tap out their phone number on the glass to receive a text containing a payment link.

Meanwhile, in November, Nike debuted its new flagship store dubbed Nike NYC. There, customers can scan the QR code on a mannequin with an app to find out the various sizes and colors the outfit comes in. And with another click, they can have the top or jacket taken to a dressing room or brought right to them.

Satisfi provides retailers with technology that enables shoppers to get answers, or even make a complaint, through a variety of platforms, from “a mobile website that the customer opens on a mobile device,” says Santa Cruz to “an SMS number that they text.”

Shoppers at some stores and malls can also get the information they need from a robot named “Pepper.” And the Mall of America has enlisted a hologram named Ellie the Elf as a virtual greeter.

Pepper’s not the only robot on the retail scene. Tally, created by Simbe Robotics, is in 10 Schnuck grocery stores, and the chain will have more than 15 by next spring.

Tally is dispatched three times a day to check shelves, alerting store employees if a product needs to be replenished and also making sure items are properly tagged and priced.

“The immediate customer benefit … is the item is on the shelf,”  says Dave Steck, Schnuck Markets vice president of IT infrastructure  and application development. “Accuracy is a big part of it as well. That does drive customer satisfaction, (seeing) that the price that they see on the shelf is the price that they’re charged.”

Grocers will continue to try out new concepts Steck says.

There are  “going to be innovations all along the chain in the supermarket industry, and some of them are going to stick and some of them aren’t,’’ he says. But he believes that Tally gives Schnucks a leg up.

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