Game-Changing Retail Tech: Hointer

Shopping in the real world just isn’t the same any more. It’s becoming more and more like a scene out of a Philip K. Dick story.

Technology — and even robotics — is invading the bricks-and-mortar retail experience, enhancing the way people shop in-store. This is the first of a three-part series that shines a spotlight on a few new game-changing retail technologies. First up is Hointer, a start-up that’s changing the in-store shopping game.

The Perks Of In-Store Shopping

Nadia Shouraboura of Hointer.
Nadia Shouraboura of Hointer.

These days shopping is all about convenience, efficiency and control. That’s why they’re increasingly going online. There’s still, however, something to be said for the in-store experience — webrooming and showrooming trends tell us that the desire for that experience is not going anywhere. Shopping in-store, after all, has its customary perks: to actually see, touch and try-on things prior to purchase.

What it lacks, however, is the easy access to product information and purchasing that is available online. Whether one experience is better than the other is completely subjective, but with their powers combined, they form one heckuva retail experience. That’s what Hointer’s all about, bringing together the best of both worlds to enhance the way people shop.

“Online shopping lacks the ability to try things on. In-store shopping is hindered by a lack of information.”

Making stores more like online

“What we’ve seen in the last 10 to 20 years is a lot of investment and changes in online shopping to make it better, faster, more convenient, and make more information and recommendations available,” says Shouraboura, who founded Hointer in 2012. “I think it’s time for bricks and mortar to do the same.”

And she’s doing her best to make sure that happens. Hointer uses a collection of retail technology solutions to enhance the in-store shopping experience, setting up people’s smartphones (via the Hointer app) as their personal shopping assistant. There are four central standouts in Hointer’s product suite:

  1. Omni-Cart product — The veritable point-man of the quartet of cloud-based techs – leverages NFC technology to let customers learn more about products via videos, customer reviews, social media and style guides. It also offers style ideas, fit recommendations and lets customers select items to add to their fitting room.
  2. Try-On Multipliers — Empowers salespeople to learn more about who’s shopping in their store – their past likes and dislikes – in order to better serve them by making more informed suggestions.
  3. The Whoosh Fitting Room — Ensures that items selected by customers on their smartphone arrive in their fitting rooms within 30 seconds. It also adds matching items for them to try on.
  4. Micro-Warehouse — Helps retailers convert their stores into efficient shipping hubs that serve in-store, online and mobile customers.

Hointer’s suite of tech solutions serve several shopper needs, says Shouraboura. One is the desire to get information about the product and the need to learn more about it. A second is the ability to make something happen in-store, like getting the right items delivered to a customer’s dressing room.

“Everything that’s going on in the store is being captured.”

“Customers want convenience,” she says. “Online shopping lacks the ability to try things on. In-store shopping is hindered by a lack of information… What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to make the in-store experience much richer than the online experience. That is our goal. Our secondary goal is around cost.”

Hointer’s not just good for customers, it’s good for the retailers too. The tech, says Shouraboura, helps retailers reduce in-store costs, a benefit she’s experienced with Hointer’s own retail locations. Retailers can also benefit from the different types of data they can collect using Hointer’s product suite.

“We capture a very rich data set, which is much richer than any online retailer would dream of capturing,” she says. “It captures everything around customer experience: what customers are trying on, what they’re liking, what they’re not liking, how they’re walking in a store, what our associates are doing, basically everything that’s going on in the store is being captured.”

“It’s much more fun if you see who’s shopping and you know who they are.”

The data can be aggregated for different purposes. When a customer enters a store, the sales associate can immediately see that they came in, whether or not they’re a returning customer, and if so, what they bought in the past and what they did and didn’t like.

“It’s very convenient because if you work as a sales associate and know nothing about the people shopping in your store it’s very hard to help them,” says Shouraboura. “It’s much more fun if you see who’s shopping and you know who they are, what they like and didn’t like. You can talk to them and recommend additional items. You can also add more items to the fitting rooms to try on and that works extremely well because, and I see it in our stores, customers love additional recommendations when they’re in a fitting room.”

Lately, Hointer’s started doubling down on Omni-Cart, making it richer by integrating it with social media and generally making it more fun to use through further recommendations and games for customers to play. Going forward, the company’s aim is to continue spreading the gospel internationally. It hasn’t yet stepped foot in Canada yet, though Shouraboura says it’s spoken with several Canadian retailers and that she would be delighted to have Hointer technology in Canada. Given the press it’s been getting, you can bet your bottom dollar it will be here soon.

Nadia Shouraboura of Hointer is speaking at Dx3 2014. Learn more about her 5 Things session.

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About Jonathan Paul

Jonathan Paul is a Toronto-based freelance writer who specializes in the Canadian advertising and marketing beat. He has written for major industry publications including Marketing and Strategy. At the latter he was senior writer for four years, crafting all sorts of stories on the advertising and marketing tactics of big brands including Microsoft, Coca-Cola, UFC Canada and Tim Hortons, all whilst keeping a finger on the pulse of international creativity, technology and trends. An avid scribe, both personally and professionally, he’s also an imagineer, information disseminator, media junkie, videogame enthusiast and, admittedly, a comic book nerd.

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