As the retail industry becomes a hive for modern technologies and innovations, Scandit’s director of retail solutions Jessica Grisolia shared with Retail Insight Network how the company – a leader in this space working with 2000 organisations worldwide – has developed smart data capture technology that helps retailers improve how efficiently they convert information from the physical world into useful data.

Smart data capture is the ability to capture objects, barcodes, IDs and text, and gain actionable insights. It has emerged as a key process for retailers to improve operational efficiency, reduce costly mistakes and empower employees.

Applications include mobile point of sales, clienteling [a technique used by retail sales associates to establish long-term relationships with key customers based on data about their preferences] or self-scanning devices for customer purchases.

One of Scandit’s tools, which utilises augmented reality (AR) overlays [digital data that overlays the real-world environment shown through the phone’s camera], enables store associates to instantly view stock levels, delivery dates, price validation and expiry dates by pointing their smartphone cameras at shelves. The tool can also be used by consumer-facing apps to give shoppers more info about the items in front of them.

Traditional vs smart data capture

Grisolia gives an example of her visit to a UK retailer’s stockroom where she asked an employee how they knew which barcodes to scan for stocktaking. Data capture within retail operations traditionally consisted of this type of repetitive task, which has been most apparent in the grocery and fashion segments.

“He said he just scans one barcode,” Grisolia explains, “and if the device makes a noise, his job is done. A lot of these one-way processes rely on a timed activity where you get data, but you don’t get information out of it or what you should do after interacting with the data.”

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Smart data capture can provide information that an associate can then act upon. It can scan entire walls of items for identification through AR overlays and be personalised for different workflows.

Grisolia uses the apparel company VF Corporation to demonstrate the point. “A few years ago [VF] had to cancel around 15% of its online orders because its previous scanning process didn’t identify what items were in-store. So, the retailer was accepting orders online, and when the employees were going to collect the items, they were not there. This process has since improved.”

Smart data capture avoids these issues and creates error-free workflows by improving inventory visibility. Retail workers can scan to see what items are in stock in their store or even nearby stores.

This is the same no matter the size of the retailer, but integration paths can differ depending on whether the company has native applications or a web application.

As for overall benefits, Grisolia confirms that “efficiency is a definite outcome alongside the overall satisfaction of the associates as they can feel more empowered in their work, which will in turn benefit consumers.”

Helping retail employees with smart data capture

Scandit has surveyed global frontline retail workers to reveal their views on technology in the industry.

“A key pain point was that 41% of respondents felt that they were not equipped with the right technology to do their job. So, we need to double down on these solutions,” states Grisolia.

Additionally, the research found that more than two-thirds of store associates rate their devices as important or very important for their job. Across all ages, the ability to multi-task (70%), access to product information (67%) and device intuitiveness (52%) are crucial capabilities in smartphone and scanning devices.

Reducing confusion with smart data capture means a less stressful environment for workers, particularly in segments that deal with high-value goods that are at risk of being lost or misallocated with traditional stocktaking methods.

Scandit is focusing on user experience to provide intuitive technology for retail workers, which will have broader impacts on work/life balance.

Scandit CEO and cofounder Samuel Mueller comments: “Increased consumer pressure, operational efficiency requirements, ongoing labour shortages and the advent of AI have required retailers to rethink how they attract, retain and motivate store associates.”

The human component is still the most impactful

With dedicated training, interactive technology can become key to employee engagement and loyalty, but Grisolia emphasises that this will only drive change “if retailers ensure that the human component of being close to the customer remains the most valuable and impactful part.”

In terms of the retail industry’s uptake of smart data capture, Grisolia highlights sporting goods, luxury retailers and consumer electronics segments as areas of acceleration.

Rather than instigating widespread replacement, this solution demonstrates a symbiosis between humans and technology that can have tangibly positive effects on workforce productivity and engagement.