Change How People Shop – The Shopping Assistant app

There have been multiple apps to help a person shop – make grocery list, help in locating parked car, bar code scanner to check prices in store etc. However, there is no comprehensive shopping solution. I propose a mobile app and a solution that will serve as a personal shopping assistant – I will call that app “The Shopping Assistant”.

Functionality

The Shopping Assistant will have the following functionalities

  1. An interface for a person to create his shopping list. The Shopping Assistant should be smart enough
    • To suggest what all items the person may need depending upon person’s past shopping habits and predicting what might finish before the person may shop next.
    • To suggest any offers in nearby stores or the store where the shopper frequents.
    • To suggest any other item that may be required when another item is already in the list. For example if a person has noted noodles and onion in shopping list and not Soy Sauce then The Shopping Assistant should suggest to include Soy Sauce in the list.

      The Shopping Assistant - Need Soy Sauce for Hakka Noodles

      Suggestion based on current items in shopping cart. Can be personalized offers in aisle

    • To suggest the best possible itinerary considering least hops, least distance/time and least cost for the shopper.
  2. When the shopper enters any store say Walmart in town Secaucus, NJ then it should prepare the path one should take in the store so that it is least distance for the shopper. For such tracking, App will need accurate location services and site map of the store.

    Direction to next item and Order Summary

    Direction to next item and Order Summary

  3. The Shopping Assistant should give shopper an interface to scan bar codes of the items being purchased.
    Ability to scan items in store by mobile phone

    Ability to scan items in store by mobile phone

    • Items purchased should keep getting added to the list of The Shopping Assistant until shopper decides that he has made all the purchases.
    • The Shopping Assistant should also inform shopper if it believes buying this item from store may not be the best choice (lower price or other freebie elsewhere and not too far away) as per the plan prepared by The Shopping Assistant.
    • The Shopping Assistant should suggest any other item that one may need from the store – milk will run out before next expected shopping date. There may even be an option to check with spouse instantly.

      Suggest to purchase item even when not in shopping list

      Suggest to purchase item even when not in shopping list

  4. After the shopper has finished picking up all the items from the store,
    1. The Shopping Assistant should let the shopper mark shopping completeShopper Already Paid
    2. provide means of payment from mobile device (credit/debit card, store card in digital form, mobi cash) or at Point of Sale.
    3. If shopper chooses to pay from mobile device then The Shopping Assistant should send the invoice to the shopper and inform to POS.
    4. Shopper may then proceed to POS, show the confirmed/paid order or pay at POS.
    5. POS may then issue Gate Pass and/or list of items purchased.
    6. Shopper will then proceed out of the store.


Possible Hurdles

  1. The Shopping Assistant is very intelligent software that will take cues from shopper’s past shopping habits and match to the offerings in store. This software is invasion in privacy.
    • Solution: Track only those customers that install this app and take a confirmation from customer when someone starts using this app.
  2. The app will take cue from shopper’s past shopping habits so there will not be any personalized suggestion until the shopper shops at least a couple of times.
  3. The app needs product information, scanning ability of bar codes on products, layout/site map of stores and ability to transmit bought items in the store to Point of Sale. This ability is not possible unless the maker of this app has signed business contract with stores. It will work best only when major stores have tied up with this app.
  4. The Shopping Assistant app needs changes in stores interface to receive store inventory/layout etc. and to send purchase information to POS.
  5. Analyzing, predicting and suggesting products and routes require Predictive Data Analytics and processing of Big Data. The app and the backend infrastructure should be very smart, and thus may be very costly.
  6. Margins in retail business are already too low so this initiative will be profitable only when major stores sign contract and there are a lot of customers using this application.

Business Model

  1. Launch The Shopping Assistant in both free version and paid version.
    • Paid version will ensure that serious shoppers use this application.
    • Free version may have product suggestion when shopper is in a store, item scanning, paying capability through credit/debit card/mobi-cash and should display advertisements.
    • Paid version may have smart shopping list, in-store shopping items route suggester and ability to call spouse to check for requirement of suggested product.
    • Paid version should not display ads.
  2. Maker of The Shopping Assistant will need to sign contract with large Retail Stores such as Walmart, K-Mart etc. The app maker may get commission for all the items that customer buys. The stores will be willing to give commission because
    • Time to scan item at the POS will be reduced. This will save effort spent by stores at POS.
    • Stores will be able to publish their offers to customers while the customer is shopping. The offers will further filter through The Shopping Assistant that will display only those offers to a shopper that the customer is most likely to be interested in. The timing of giving offers and such personalized offers are likely to convert into more sales. The Shopping Assistant may even provide a report to store as to which offer the shopper picked.
    • The large amount of data generated by customers by their consent may be analyzed and report can be provided to stores for a fees.
  3. Advertisement in free version may be another source of revenue.

Conclusion

The app The Shopping Assistant may be a very big initiative that will require lot of investment, legal thought and expertise in both IT and retail sphere. Low margin in retail will be another hurdle. However, it will change the way people shop. Will you start this venture? If yes, go ahead and share your story. If no then stay tuned for next venture idea.

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