Retail Heavyweights Add Visual Search Experiences for Shoppers

When you haven’t stepped foot inside a store for months, navigating crowded aisles can be disconcerting. With products moving to new locations, and sales associates in scarce supply, major retailers are doubling down on visual search experiences to keep customers in the loop.

Indoor mapping technology had been growing in popularity among retail chains and malls before the pandemic, but with the world coming back this summer, the emergence of visual search for more intuitive front-end mapping experiences is a trend that’s moving into the mainstream. Visual search experiences come in all different forms, from holding up a phone to see 3D directional arrows to informational overlays that appear on indoor maps along the shopping journey.

Nearly half of the world’s population now owns a smartphone, and in the U.S. that percentage is much greater. For these consumers, it can actually be faster to locate products with an indoor mapping system than to track down a store associate. Locating products through visual search also has the benefit of decreasing physical contact, which consumers continue to be leery of for health reasons.

Here’s how five retail heavyweights are taking advantage of the latest mapping technology to integrate new engaging visual experiences.

1. Albertson’s

At the supermarket chain Albertson’s, Google’s new features for Google Maps have become an integral part of the company’s digital strategy. Back in March, the company announced plans to integrate Google Cloud AI technologies, including shoppable maps, Vision AI, Recommendations AI, and Business Messages, into its operational strategy. The shoppable maps that Albertson’s plans to roll out will include dynamic hyperlocal features, with interactive experiences like the ability to build predictive grocery lists. In addition to developing more engaging experiences for shoppers, the Albertson’s approach is also designed to make it easier for customers to use online ordering and curbside pickup.

2. Farfetch

One of the most exciting announcements at Snap’s recent Partner Summit had to do with the Snapchat camera and the way major retailers like Farfetch will use location technology to create more engaging experiences. In the coming months, Farfetch will pilot augmented reality (AR) try-ons for customers. The integration of natural language processing and more than 40 voice commands means Snap users can say things like, “Can you show me a cropped hoodie?” or “Maybe something in red?” and the system will pull up products meeting those descriptions. Users can then “try-on” the products (virtually), share images of what they look like in the clothes, and complete their purchases without leaving their smartphones.

3. Walt Disney World Resorts

As one of the largest retail and entertainment companies in the world, Disney is in a prime position to test out visual search experiences using location technology. Just last year, Inpixon and OmniExperience partnered with the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resorts on an indoor mapping experience and interactive wayfinding solution. For the Swan and Dolphin Resort apps, OmniExperience integrated Inpixon mapping technology and Virtual Bluetooth Low Energy positioning to allow guests to search for and navigate to specific points of interest. The solution also delivers location-aware services to enhance the guest experience and make property management more efficient.

4. The Dubai Mall

Shopping malls have long been considered the ideal use case for indoor mapping technology. At The Dubai Mall, 3D interactive maps have been added to a branded mobile app, so shoppers can find any location within the mall without relying on associates or posted kiosks for help. Mall officials have the ability to set up notifications that get triggered when customers walk into pre-determined zones. For example, a notification about discounted movie tickets could pop up when a customer walks by the movie theater. The Dubai Mall is working with MappedIn on the project.

5. LaGuardia Airport

Like The Dubai Mall, LaGuardia Airport is home to dozens of retail stores and restaurants. The airport has debuted a visual mapping experience for travelers in Terminal B that makes it easier to find the items they’re looking for nearby and place orders from their phones. Once they’ve placed their mobile orders, travelers can follow a map to collect their purchase from the airport store. The update, which is powered by technology from LocusLabs and the mobile ordering platform Grab, reduces the need for interaction and physical contact between travelers and airport employees, and it also reduces long airport lines.

Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.

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