The Zebra Virtual Retail Store
By Mark Thomson | August 23, 2021

Retailers: See How Technology Can Improve the Store Experience – from the Shopper and Associate Points of View

New interactive 3D tool lets you tour both your physical stores and online fulfilment processes so you can see where improvements should be made and how technology may be able to help.

In 2019, Zebra’s Global Shopper Study confirmed that even consumers who occasionally shop online still preferred to browse and buy in store. Being able to touch, see or smell items elicits a strong emotional connection. And talking to someone face to face is much easier sometimes than picking up the phone and calling customer service. So, we entered 2020 talking about how to take the in-store experience to a whole new level – even for digital native brands that were starting to pop up in the physical realm to make personal connections that were unattainable online.

As we sat down with retailers to develop a plan of action, the conversation always centered on two things:

  1. What do customers want to be able to see and do in store? What entails a “frictionless” experience?
  2. How can technology be used better, or in new ways, to deliver those desired experiences?

Of course, there are no cut and dry answers to these questions, as every retailer must figure out how to authentically infuse its brand into the experience without going over budget or burning out its team. Boutiques aren’t going to offer the same experience as big box retailers, for example. Nor should they. And the feelings shoppers experience at a fashion or furniture retailer will always be very different than those elicited at a food market. That doesn’t mean any less effort must be put into providing the “perfect” experience. It just means retailers may not use the exact same strategies, tactics, and technologies as one another to simplify their operations or achieve the desired service speed and personalization of their customer base.

So, to better understand each retailer’s current shopper and associate experience and make tailored recommendations on how they can evolve, teams from across Zebra Nation would often head to stores around the world to take hands-on tours. Once we spent a “day in the life” of shoppers or associates, it was easier to see what was working well – those things that contributed to their happiness and loyalty – and what was contributing to bottlenecks, abandoned baskets and more. We knew how to help customers.

Then the pandemic started, and virtual became the reality.  The definition of “experience” also changed for everyone. For months, it seemed like the best way for retailers to connect with consumers on an emotional level was to keep:

  1. shelves stocked with the right inventory assortment.
  2. shopping trips – and pickup/delivery experiences – short and sweet.
  3. in touch with how things were going – what policies were in place, when items were running low or fully available, what new services were available to make their lives easier.

Yet none of this was easy. Even the most agile retailers found it hard to keep up with the months-long wave of disruptions. We know. We were (virtually) working with many of you day in and day out, trying to figure out how to make small changes across both your physical and digital stores that would make a big difference in the overall retail experience.

What we learned was that success wasn’t contingent on face-to-face interactions. But we did need to be able to see and experience what shoppers and associates experience as they move about stores.

That’s why Zebra built this new virtual retail store!

We wanted you to be able to experience the customer journey and retail operations in your own stores in a virtual setting without having to go a great distance or indeed anywhere further than your desk. We also wanted to give you a way to “try before you buy” Zebra’s retail technology solutions in the context of a store.

What to Know Before You “Go”

The store floorplan includes both front of store and back of store/e-commerce fulfillment environments. You can even bounce around from one department or function to the next to discover technologies and understand how you think they could give shoppers and associates the capabilities they want, whether that’s more self-service options or more visibility into what’s where. The retail environments covered are:

  • Store Entrance
  • Customer Returns
  • Fashion
  • Pharmacy
  • Customer Service Deck
  • Self-Checkout
  • Staffed Checkout
  • Picking and Packing
  • Inventory Management
  • Deli Counter
  • Cold Storage
  • Back of Store
  • Associate Performance
  • Curbside Pickup
  • Goods In

Curious if kiosks could shorten the click and collect or custom order processes? Want to drill into cold chain operations? Interested in what technologies can specifically help with fashion lines? This is your chance to put different ideas to the test risk free.

So, I invite you to stop in anytime you want to just browse the aisles and explore how Zebra solutions can enhance your shopping journey. Our associates will be available to answer any questions you may have and help you find the perfect products so you can, in turn, offer the perfect retail experience to both online and in-store shoppers.

Visit the Store Now


Book a Personalized Tour

You can also learn more about what to expect during your store visit in this short video:

Retail, Retail, Retail, Retail, Retail, Retail, Retail,
Mark Thomson
Mark Thomson

What’s happening in retail? How has the shift in shopping behavior impacted retailers around the world and will robots take over? Mark Thomson’s exploration of the global retail landscape helps retailers gain a focus on what’s real and what works when building a retail strategy in a digital world.

As Director of Retail Industry Solutions at Zebra Technologies, Mr. Thomson works closely with retailers and hospitality businesses to provide input on how to face the challenge of a new digital retail landscape, where customers are often more connected and informed than shop floor staff. Mr. Thomson helps retailers focus on developing a vision for their retail business that aims to improve customer experience and drive business efficiencies.

With over 27 years of customer-focused experience, Mr. Thomson has developed in-depth knowledge of the EMEA and global retail marketplace and regularly speaks at industry events throughout the EMEA region including World Retail Congress, Retail Middle East, RBTE and Euroshop. He has worked closely with retailers on the pain points of modern retail and explains how technology solutions can be an integral part of their business strategy to help them solve their real business challenges from supply chain to store.

Prior to joining Zebra, Mr. Thomson held senior roles in Financial Services and Hospitality businesses.

Zebra Developer Blog
Zebra Developer Blog

Are you a Zebra Developer? Find more technical discussions on our Developer Portal blog.

Zebra Story Hub
Zebra Story Hub

Looking for more expert insights? Visit the Zebra Story Hub for more interviews, news, and industry trend analysis.

Search the Blog
Search the Blog

Use the below link to search all of our blog posts.