Imagine giving your customers the keys to your store so they could shop with no staff there. Would you really trust your customers to be responsible?
One village supermarket in Sweden, Näraffär, is doing just this with the aid of an app. When the store closes in the evening, customers wanting access after hours can swipe their smartphones at the door to gain entry, scan the products they want to take from the shelves through the app, and walk out of the store. The app registers products taken and charges users at the end of the month.
Innovation Researcher Martin Reid spoke with the one-man developer behind the store’s unique security and payment system, Robert Ilijason, to ask how he envisioned the future scalability of this very local technology.
“I expect solutions like mine to make some impossible business ventures possible. Consider something like a record store. That just isn’t viable today if you need to pay someone full time,” said Ilijason. “But by using technology one person could run maybe four or five stores in different areas of town and that might be feasible economically. Or maybe you could stick with just running one for the love of it and spend what hours you can, while still giving the customers opening hours that are beyond great!”
Going beyond simply self-service at a supermarket, I found this case study particularly interesting because it raises a lot of questions about the relationship between convenience, trust and security. What’s to stop more stores attracting loyalty by having faith in customers and offering a way to meet their needs beyond the expected call of duty? How will the treatment of staff change if all parts of the customer experience can be outsourced to technology?
Whether retailers will fully embrace this kind of attitude towards their customers remains to be seen. I’m reminded of the launch of Kenneth Cole’s NYC flagship last year, which endeavoured to give its clients exclusive access to shop the store at any hour of the day, but seemingly hasn’t delivered on its promise.
Once the issue of technology and trust has been mediated, there’s no telling what possibilities lie ahead for the brand and the customer.