Friction and the future of shopping: finding a sales associate

Tracking down a sales associate is a big pain point when shopping in a store. Sometimes they are busy, sometimes they aren't paying attention, and sometimes you're in a dressing room and your options are limited.

Some brands, like Rebecca Minkoff, have created complex solutions to this problem, such as "connected dressing rooms" and interactive mirrors.

There are simpler solutions to this specific problem that make the experience easier for the customer and more efficient for the sales associate. This should always be the goal.

Below are two other ways a retailer could solve this problem.

Video motion processing (pull)

The actions of looking for a sales associate are specific and limited. * Someone is looking at a rack of clothes, and then jerks their head around as they try to spot a free sales associate. * Someone is slowly wandering the floor with a garment or two looking for help. * Someone is walking franticly around the store searching for help. * Or a combination of all three.

These actions might be specific enough to track and interpret them on video, which blankets most retail stores today for security reasons. A developer would define the actions with a video/image processing library and then send a ping when it detects one. Even if the processing isn't perfect, one could design the system to be a bit over sensitive. Offering to help a bit too much is better than not offering at all.

Once a valid action is detected, the program could send a ping to a sales associate with an Apple Watch or something similar, which would dispatch them to the right part of the store. This could happen super quickly and has the potential to get help at just the right time.

A lockscreen card from Starbucks

A lockscreen card from Starbucks

Lockscreen/Apple Wallet tap (push)

Another option is to create a card in Apple Wallet that lives on a shopper's lockscreen. The card would have a "help" button in it, where a customer could just tap for help. The tap would send a ping to a sales associate's Apple Watch or other device. This is an easy and elegant solution. However, it requires the customer to have the retailer's app installed, which not everyone will have. This is more logical for loyal customers.

The video processing method works by pulling information from the video to the sales associate. The lockscreen method works by pushing information to the sales associate. In practice, both of these methods can work well together, providing a simple, frictionless solution to one of the biggest pain points of shopping.