At a time when many retailers are taking a go-slow approach to customer-facing technology in their stores, Toronto-based sporting goods chain Sport Chek is trying saturation instead. The chain has opened a 12,000-square-foot store containing 140 digital screens, kiosks and other digital devices, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Among other things, the store has a treadmill that analyzes a runner's gait to find the right running shoes, a swing analyzer for picking the correct golf club, and a machine that sharpens the edges of a snowboard or skis depending on the customer's skill level and snow conditions. Kiosks offer the ability to select sunglasses or running shoes and then specify the exact configuration, including (in the case of shoes) the color of each part, including laces.
The idea is to make in-store shopping more like online. "Shopper-tainment" is how it's described by Eugene Roman, CTO for Canadian Tire, which owns the Sport Chek chain. He also calls it "the future of retail."
To be clear, that future is currently a single store in northern Toronto. The chain plans to evaluate each of the customer-facing technologies and, if they look worth the cost, install them in the other 162 stores. The chain also plans to open an additional 100 stores over the next five years, where the new technology will be designed in.
One reason in-store technology is still largely limited to point-of-sale and inventory-control devices is that always-unpredictable customer acceptance is the life or death of anything customers will actually have to choose to use. In apparel, for example, kiosks and informational screens have generally been well accepted, while mirrors and dressing rooms that automatically calculate the customer's size have fared less well.
On that score, the Sport Chek results seem to be mixed. The Journal reported that one customer, who said he has flat feet, thought the analytical treadmill was a great idea. But another 31-year-old customer was baffled. "I can't see myself using any of these things," she said. "I probably wouldn't run a treadmill to buy a pair of running shoes. These things are lost on me."
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