There's online grocery shopping, virtual grocery shopping in subways, home delivery and curbside pickup. But in each scenario one vital link is missing: the customer/employee connection that happens when the two meet face-to-face.
So when I heard about this new iPhone app from the company Signature, I immediately recognized its potential to bridge the virtual and real world of shopping. Retailers are currently using mobile apps that are basically extensions of their websites.
This app rethinks the whole idea of a retail app. It still delivers on the convenience that customers crave, but takes it to the next level by connecting shoppers directly to a sales associate.
Unfortunately, for now it's only targeting upscale clothing retailers, such as Neiman Marcus. Called the "ultimate personal shopping assistant," the NM Service app has two interfaces: for shoppers and sales associates.
Shoppers can browse events, sales and new products and even ask employees to place items in a dressing room prior to the shopper's arrival.
On the flip side, the sales associate can view the shoppers' purchase history, see which products the shoppers favorite and be notified (with a Facebook photo!) of when the customer arrives to the store.
This all seems very big brother, no? The truth is this information is already known about shoppers. It's just usually not held in the palm of a sales associate's hand.
An app with a small town mentality
And that's where the power comes in. Can you imagine what shopping in a natural store would be like with an app like this, especially if the app was integrated with an inventory management system?
Shoppers would know before they set foot in the store if their favorite kind of apple or cookie was out of stock or on sale. They could have their groceries set aside for them, and employees could make additional suggestions based on a shoppers' past purchases.
This isn't so far-fetched, really. Knowing your customer completely is also what happens in small town communities, where everyone knows each other (and not because they're friends on Facebook.)
I'm a big fan of technology that saves time, but an even bigger fan when technology leads to actual human interaction. And if that allows an employee to "read my mind" and make me feel like I'm their No. 1 customer, that's one big brother situation I don't mind.
What do you think of this retail app? Share in the comments.