A retail revolution!

With Ben Gilchriest,
Digital Innovation Lead, Capgemini Global Digital Services

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A retail revolution!

In 2015, Capgemini helped revolutionize the retail industry with a connected bag that automatically records purchases and enables payment without ever visiting a cashier. Whether or not this spells the end of the cash register remains to be seen, but one thing is already clear: customers will have a better in-store experience.

Shopping with Helen

Today, Helen is in a rush. She walks into her favorite store, grabs a connected bag and connects it to her mobile phone. Strolling through the aisles, she picks out the clothes and accessories she wants to buy. All the items are connected and purchasing information is displayed on her phone. That information is also available on the tablets of in-store customer service managers, offering them real-time data on stock levels, customer loyalty, best-selling items and the effectiveness of special offers.

When it comes time for Helen to pay, a single click on a mobile app is all it takes. Since entering the store, her entire shopping excursion took only a few minutes—a seamless customer experience, even during peak hours.

The percentage of customers who will leave the store without finishing their purchase if they spend more than two minutes in the waiting line.

Ben Gilchriest
Digital Innovation Lead at Capgemini

The benefits of online shopping in a "real" store

Helen’s experience is still rare today, but it will soon become the norm in most stores, and the retail sector will never be the same because of it. The origins of this revolution date back to 2015, when Capgemini and Twyst, a young American start-up, teamed up to create a connected bag.

“An American retail chain with approximately 250 outlets asked us to combine the benefits of online shopping, starting with the speed of transactions, and those of physical stores, where you can see, touch and try the items,” recalls Ben Gilchriest, who was Innovation Lead at Capgemini Global Digital Services at the time. “Their number one goal was to put an end to endless checkout lines, which put off many of their customers. To bridge the gap between the online and physical shopping experiences, we needed to develop one app for customers’ phones, and another specifically for customer service staff and sales teams in the store. There had been several attempts made since the early 2000s, but none had taken off because the technology just wasn’t quite there yet," he explains.

The connected bag is not widely available today, but it shows that entire sectors of the economy are evolving towards new technologies based on artificial intelligence and advanced data analytics.
Ben Gilchriest

It had to be invented

Capgemini and Twyst had to invent everything from scratch. While Twyst took care of designing the chip and hardware in the bag, Capgemini developed the apps for customers’ phones and customer service tablets. Both use a wide range of digital tools for analysis and data processing, and make good use of the cloud’s capabilities.

39 billion
The aggregate number of hours spent queuing in stores each year worldwide.

But there were still many challenges to overcome. “The app had to offer all the advantages of e-commerce, including a diverse offering, secure payments and consumer transaction history,” Ben Gilchriest continues. The app for customer service staff was just as vital since it would enable faster restocking, accurate stock management and targeted offers for loyal customers.

The partners fine-tuned the connected bag throughout 2015 until it was ready to be officially showcased in 2016. “For now, what we have is a prototype undergoing testing in a chain of stores. But this technology has such a significant impact on the customer journey that it will become widely adopted soon as the price of technology drops and retailers begin to reinvent the in-store experience," Ben Gilchriest concludes.

Connected bag technology is not limited to retail: it could also find industrial applications, such as tracking tools and parts and ensuring technicians have the right materials for the repairs they need to make. There are many ways this could be applied and we continue to explore these.Ben Gilchriest
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