A new software developed by the former Amazon executive Nadia Shouraboura may revolutionize the brick and mortar retail experience, and bridge the gap between the advantages of online and in person shopping.

At Amazon, Nadia Shouraboura helped develop the software that controls the movement of goods between its suppliers, distribution centers, and all the way through to final fulfillment to the end consumer. This supply chain is undoubtedly one of the keys to Amazon’s success and rapid growth.

Since then, Nadia Shouraboura has left Amazon to develop a new type of software that could very well revolutionize the brick and mortar retail experience, and bridge the gap between the advantages of online and in person shopping. Many have noted in the past year that several top retailers are aiming to provide same day shipping to online customers, often utilizing stores and de-facto distribution centers. However, based on her experience at Amazon, Ms. Shouraboura did not believe stores could function as distribution centers — that this attempt to meld the immediacy of in-person shopping with the convenience of online shopping would ultimately fail.

Instead, she is developing software that will enable retail stores to provide the benefits of the online experience, without adding tons of cost.

She has set up a test store selling blue jeans.

  • When one enters the store, they see one example of each product sold.
  • The customer scans a QR code for each product they want to try on, and it shows up on an app on their phone.
  • When they have made all their choices, they press a button and are directed to a dressing room.
  • By the time they get to the dressing room, a machine has picked out each item on the list in the size requested and it is waiting in the dressing room.
  • Once the customer has tried them on, items that are not purchased are removed from the list as soon as they are dropped into an “outbox” in the dressing room.
  • The customer takes the rest of them up to a register, swipes their credit card, and is ready to go. The next time they come in, their card is remembered—all they have to do is walk out with the product they want to buy and their card will automatically be charged.

The software’s killer app is really in two parts.

  • First is the ability for the machine in the stockroom to near-instantly fulfill requests and sync with the app in real time.
  • Secondly, the reason that Ms. Shouraboura believes it could be more successful than the same-day shipping service is that inventory fulfillment to the stores will be tracked by her software and based solely on demand, with each individual store receiving different quantities of different products based on their demand patterns.
  • Furthermore, if the product is not available at that store the software could automatically have ‘it boxed’ up and ship it to the customer’s home. This concept provides many of the benefits of both forms of shopping, and requires very little to no interaction with sales employees in the store.

Based on the track record of Ms. Shouraboura and the interest of heavyweight investors such as Bain Capital, it is highly possible that this software will be available and functioning in actual retail environments in the near future.

In fact, it is already functional at Ms. Shouraboura’s test store and is being updated in real-time by her employees. Assuming it does gain a foothold, it will be interesting to see whether customers prefer this type of store to an online or “regular” in-store experience. It remains to be seen whether it fills more of a niche market or whether this type of set-up is the future direction of the industry.

Source:  Dr. Chris Kuehl, Armada Corporate Intelligence, a contributing editor of BIIA.