AWS for Industries

Embrace Retail’s Future: Bringing AWS Smart Store Solutions to Life

Key questions and strategies to accelerate innovation with AWS Smart Store solutions

The world of retail continues its digital transformation with the rise of ecommerce and the increasing prevalence of digital devices in the shopping experience. Furthermore, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of retail digital tools, experiences, and technologies. Now that stores are re-opened and the world moves into the “new normal”, physical retail stores will still play a crucial role.

To meet new customer needs, retailers are seeking ways to bring the benefits of digital transformation to their brick-and-mortar locations. Physical stores aren’t going away anytime soon—in fact, physical stores matter even more today. That’s because stores remain a popular destination for shoppers to discover, research, see, touch, and buy products. It’s no surprise that brick and mortar stores still represent roughly 80% of all retail sales.

This is where Amazon Web Services (AWS) Smart Store solutions come in—the next generation of physical retail innovations that leverage cloud-based technology to improve the in-store experience for both customers and retailers. As highlighted in our NRF blog post, we discussed AWS has a renewed focus on how to help retailers in the physical space.

We get it—there are A LOT of solution opportunities and it can be overwhelming to know where to begin or where to focus. This is where AWS can help. Whether you are a retailer far along on your cloud journey, or even just beginning, this blog will highlight key questions and strategies retailers can take to assess and prioritize Smart Store initiatives.

Start by diving deep

To get started on the journey towards implementing Smart Store solutions, retailers should begin with a deep dive into their existing infrastructure, operations, customer experience, and data capabilities. This discovery phase will help retailers identify areas of their business that could benefit from a Smart Store solution, as well as provide insights into the key questions they need to ask.

When it comes to infrastructure, retailers should assess their current systems and identify any limitations or areas for improvement. This may include evaluating their point-of-sale (POS) systems, inventory management tools, and other backend systems. Key questions to ask may include:

  • Are systems integrated and scalable?
  • Are you able to collect and share data across systems?
  • What bandwidth is available to stores? Any quality-of-service limitations?
  • How many SKUs do you carry and what kind of transaction volume?
  • Do you want to eliminate store servers or reuse any hardware?

Operations is a critical area for retailers to explore during the discovery process. This may involve evaluating the current state of store operations, such as staffing, training, and workflows, to identify areas for improvement. Key questions to ask may include:

  • Where can you streamline operations to reduce costs and improve efficiency?
  • Are staff equipped with the necessary digital tools and platforms to support Smart Store technologies?
  • Do you have an optimized view and process for inventory management and replenishment?
  • Are you able to monitor all equipment for failures?
  • What are your safety mechanisms for customers and employees?
  • Are you automating tasks like planogram validation, scheduling, communications, and trainings?

Retailers should assess their data capabilities to determine how they can leverage data to drive insights and improvements. This may involve evaluating their current data collection and analysis tools, as well as identifying areas where they may need to invest in new capabilities. Key questions to ask may include:

  • What data are you currently collecting, and how are you analyzing it?
  • How are you using and integrating data together to optimize store operations and improve the customer experience?
  • What data privacy concerns do you need to consider?
  • Do you have a full 360 data view of your consumers?

Finally, when it comes to customer experience, retailers should examine how customers interact with their stores and identify pain points or opportunities for improvement. This may include evaluating the layout of stores, the effectiveness of signage and displays, and the quality of customer service. Key questions to ask may include:

  • How can you personalize the shopping experience for individual customers?
  • Do you know your customers’ path to purchase, and where they dwell?
  • Can you market to customers in your store?
  • Is the checkout and payment process streamlined?
  • Are your inventory counts accurate? Are you out-of-stock often?

By taking a deep dive into these areas and asking key questions, retailers can gain a better understanding of their current state and identify areas where Smart Store solutions could have the greatest impact. This will help prioritize efforts and develop a clear roadmap for their Smart Store transformation journey.

Obsessing over your customers

In the previous section we highlighted some key questions to consider for your customer experience. Another way to fully optimize the customer experience is to take a holistic view of the end-to-end customer journey. This involves identifying each step of the journey and determining which Smart Store solutions could be leveraged to improve the experience at each touchpoint.

The first step in this process is to map out the customer journey, from initial awareness of the brand to post-purchase support. This may involve breaking the journey down into discrete steps or touchpoints, such as browsing online, visiting a physical store, making a purchase, and seeking customer support. By breaking down the journey into these steps, retailers can identify pain points or opportunities for improvement at each stage. Figure 1 and Figure 2 are examples of this for Fashion and the Fuel/Convenience Retail segments.

Figure 1 - Amazon & AWS Solution Alignment across Fashion Retail Consumer Journey
Figure 1 – Amazon & AWS Solution Alignment across Fashion Retail Consumer Journey

Figure 2 – Amazon & AWS Solution Alignment Across Convenience / Fuel Retail Consumer Journey

Figure 2 – Amazon & AWS Solution Alignment Across Convenience / Fuel Retail Consumer Journey

Once the customer journey has been mapped out, retailers can then evaluate the potential Smart Store solutions that can be implemented to improve the experience at each touchpoint. For example, at the pre-journey stage, retailers may want to implement immersive retail or virtual try-on technology from AWS Retail Competency Partners such as Hexa or Matterport to help customers visualize products in their own environment.

At the physical store stage, retailers may want to use AWS Panorama computer vision technology to gain consumer behavior analytics and insights. This in turn could allow retailers to send personalized offers or recommendations to customers as they move through the store.

During the purchase stage, retailers may want to enhance their POS/commerce Platform (AWS Retail Competency Partners NewStore, XY Retail, VTEX, Spryker) or checkout solutions (Just Walk Out, Dash Cart, or Amazon One) to reduce wait times and improve the overall checkout experience. Finally, during the post-purchase stage, retailers may want to implement chatbots or use Amazon Personalize to provide personalized customer support or ads.

By taking a step-by-step approach to Smart Store implementation, retailers can identify the areas of the customer journey where Smart Store solutions can have the greatest impact and develop a clear roadmap for implementation. This will not only help retailers improve the customer experience but also drive sales and loyalty, as customers are more likely to return to retailers that provide a seamless and personalized shopping experience.

Integrating these solutions across the journey increases a retailer’s ability to capture data, analytics, and insights at every step. Capturing data unlocks immense value for retailers as it enables them to understand customer behavior and preferences, track the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, optimize their inventory management, and identify new growth opportunities. With Smart Store solutions capturing data at every step of the customer journey, retailers can make data-driven decisions that lead to better customer experiences, increased sales, and improved business performance.

Bringing it all together

After completing the deep dive and assessing the customer journey, retailers should prioritize the areas where Smart Store solutions will have the most impact. This could include improving store layout to optimize foot traffic, implementing personalized recommendations based on customer data, or leveraging data to improve inventory management.

Prioritization should be based on a combination of potential impact and ease of implementation. Retailers should focus on solutions that will have the greatest impact on the customer experience and sales, while also being feasible to implement within their existing infrastructure and resources.

AWS Smart Stores represent the next generation of physical retail solutions, leveraging cloud-based technology to improve the in-store experience for both customers and retailers. By completing a discovery deep dive, prioritizing based on impact and feasibility, and embarking on a cloud transformation journey, retailers can begin to reap the benefits of AWS Smart Store solutions. With the right technology and strategy, physical retail stores can continue to play a vital role in the retail landscape for years to come.

Find out how AWS and AWS Retail Competency Partners can support your retail transformation with Smart Store solutions. Learn more at

Further Reading

Justin Swagler

Justin Swagler

Justin Swagler is worldwide head of Physical Retail at AWS, where he leads the global strategy and thought leadership for physical retailing. Justin has 15+ years of consumer packaged goods, retail, and strategy experience spanning innovation strategy, retail operations, product development, and executive leadership. He is passionate about shepherding organizations to strategically innovate and reinvent consumer experiences. He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management.