These Retailers Are Using Mapping Tech to Change the Shopping Experience

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Shoppers can wander through store aisles, slowly browsing and checking off the items on their paper lists if they want to, but thanks to the influence of online and mobile mapping, today’s shopping experience has the potential to be much more streamlined.

Over the past few years, a number of national retailers have added mapping technology into their mobile apps. Even more retailers have given store associates handheld devices with integrated indoor location features, putting the answers to frequently asked questions—like where products are located and how to get to certain store departments—at their fingertips.

Even though location and mapping technology is embedded into many consumer-facing shopping apps, and it’s used by retailers to fuel both their marketing initiatives and back-end operations, publicly explained use cases from retail brands are rare. Here are five examples of how retailers are applying the technology and using mapping to fundamentally change the in-store shopping experience.

1. Home Depot
Perhaps because of the sheer volume of products they carry, big-box home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have lead the way in integrating mapping into their mobile apps. Home Depot, in particular, has found success with AR-enabled in-store navigation and product search tools that combine the online, mobile, and in-store shopping experience. Shoppers who use Home Depot’s mobile app can use their smartphone cameras to scan items on store shelves and get product details, ratings, reviews, and even instructions. The app also includes store wayfinding capabilities, along with store maps, the aisle locations of products, and current inventory details.

2. Sam’s Club Now
Sam’s Club Now has become Walmart’s test store for new technology, and given the rise in interest in mobile mapping, it should come as no surprise that new navigation and indoor mapping solutions are being tested out at these store locations. The Sam’s Club Now concept store does away with cashiers. Customers scan items with a mobile app that’s been “infused” with features that Walmart wants to try out, including integrated wayfinding and navigation, along with AR and AI-powered shopping lists. The app also includes a built-in map for finding products. In time, the mapping system will be tied to beacons and an in-app shopping list builder, so the correct aisle number will appear next to each item on the customer’s shopping list.

3. Nordstrom
As an upscale fashion retailer, Nordstrom utilizes mapping technology in a much different way from big-box stores like Home Depot. The company has worked with OneEye Global on a digital wayfinding project designed to offer customers personalized experiences without deserting the “aesthetic DNA” of the Nordstrom store. Digital wayfinding screens are visual maps presented in attractive digital formats that direct customers to the places they need to go. In Nordstrom’s case, digital wayfinding is being used as a concierge service so that shoppers can quickly find information. The project also helps the retailer learn about shopping behaviors and individual store operations.

4. Rite Aid
Rite Aid made headlines with the announcement that it was rolling out proximity beacons at 4,500 of its store locations back in 2016. The large-scale plan was designed to aid in personalization of the shopping experience. Using the beacons, Rite Aid has been able to create a digital infrastructure, collecting proximity data for retargeting and achieving personalization similar to what customers now expect from shopping online. Rite Aid has also been noted for using 3D mapping technology. In addition to adding pricing and videos at the point-of-sale, the 3D technology integrates into Google Maps for virtual tours.

5. Walgreens
Like Rite Aid, Walgreens has expanded its mobile strategy with a nationwide rollout of in-store navigation tools. Walgreens is giving smartphone users a way to view store maps and locate specific sections, aisles, or departments within stores. Walgreens partnered with aisle411 on the project, which includes a mobile app that can be used at more than 7,000 Walgreens stores around the country.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.Rainbow over Montclair

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.