The automated checkout process — where the customers can shop and check out without ever interacting with a human employee — is not exactly a new idea in retail, however many headlines it generates today. Self-service checkout lanes in grocery stores have been a common feature for over two decades.
But making those automated checkouts truly distinct from the standard point-of-sale (POS) experience is something of a new a idea, and one that has been gaining traction in the U.S. — particularly in grocery stores and markets. From Amazon Go’s smart visioning systems that let consumer check in, grab and literally walk out the door to Caper’s smart grocery carts that scan as consumers shop, the idea of making it easy for customers to duck in an out of stores without the traditional layover at a POS terminal is becoming a popular way to lure shoppers into physical retail experiences.
But on the other side of the pond, in Spain’s capital Madrid, online furniture startup Tudecora is taking clerk-less commerce where it’s never gone before — into furniture sales.
Tucedora specializes in handmade and premium wood furnishings, and has heretofore been a direct-to-consumer online-only brand. When seeking to open its first physical retail experience, the brand didn’t simply want to open a new channel to service clients, but a channel that functioned more as an expansion of the web experience.
As a result, the Tudecora store isn’t staffed. To enter, consumers log into the Tudecora app as they approach the store, and request entry. Consumers who are new to the app or store will have to provide their name and show (via photograph) some ID before they will be granted entry. After a review by Tudecora, the system will generate an “open” message that will unlock the shop and give them access to it for as long as their shopping needs require. And those shopping needs can happen at any time of the day or night — because the shop is unstaffed, it is open 24/7 and on holidays.
The goods are protected by a meticulous system of security cameras and a proprietary array of sensor technologies, according to Tudecora. Furniture is also, in some ways, protected by its very nature — handmade wood furniture is heavy and not an obvious target for shoplifting.
Consumers who find they have questions or need assistance during the process will also be provided with a telephone number they can call to ask for special assistance. And once the customer is ready to buy, the store guides them to a set of custom touchscreens that will walk them through the purchase process.
For consumers, Tudecora noted, there is value in being able to shop in a physical store whenever they want, and with minimal interference while they explore the goods. Many consumers who might like to be able to “touch and feel” the merchandise still prefer eCommerce, the firm noted, because they often feel pressured by salespeople when they are in a store.
But more importantly, it allows Tudecora to offer consumers a physical shopping experience while still collecting the same types of data it is able to collect when a customer is visiting the online shop. The company knows when the customers entered, when they left and what goods they were most focused on when they were in the store. Whether the customer makes a purchase that day or not, the brand noted, the visitation experience provides better insight into that consumer, and greater ability to point them at more targeted offerings better tailored to their interests and needs.
The shop has only been open for a week or two, and so it is still too early to make any pronouncements on consumer behavior, according to Tudecora.
But so far, the company reports, interest has been strong, and Tudecora expects big things from the model as consumers get used to being able to have an experience in real life that so closely mimics the experiences they already have online.