AWS for Industries

Reinventing the in-store experience with Smart Store solutions

How to reinvent the in-store experience, improve operational efficiency, and accelerate innovation with Smart Store solutions on AWS.

Although ecommerce sales soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, 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 percent of all retail sales.

However, the retail landscape is quickly changing. Traditional walls separating online and offline channels are crumbling, and omnichannel has become the new normal as shoppers increasingly demand a consistent journey across the web, mobile apps, and physical stores.

To keep up, retailers must equip their stores with the tools that they need to integrate their digital and physical environments. By unlocking digital innovation in stores, retailers can elevate the customer experience, operate more efficiently, and become more agile amid a changing marketplace.

In our recent blog post, we discussed renewed focus from Amazon Web Services (AWS) on how to help retailers in the physical space. The launch of our new ebook, Harness the Power of Smart Stores, helps bring this to life for retailers.

It’s time for Smart Stores solutions

Smart Stores solutions reinvent the brick-and-mortar shopping experience, making it fast, frictionless, and engaging. For example, smart stores can

  • offer a shopping experience that allows customers to select items and leave the store without standing in a checkout line—helping staff to focus on high-value consumer interactions;
  • use computer vision technology to reduce stockouts and track and analyze shopper behavior to enhance sales;
  • use an integrated customer loyalty and purchase-history database to send personalized offers to customers while they are in the store; and
  • use a holistic workforce management platform to optimize staff productivity and engagement while facilitating a better consumer experience.

When Smart Store solutions are used across the entire physical store, retailers can truly transform the retail experience and drive brand differentiation. Here is an example of how a number of these solutions can be used by a general merchandise retailer.

What could a future Smart Store look like? Adoption of Next Generation Physical Retail technologies to enhance in-store operations and consumer experience for General Merchandise Retailing • Customer behavior & site operational insights through Computer Vision • Integrated omnichannel experience – curbside pickup • RFID or Just Walk Out frictionless checkout experience • Self-service voice-enabled kiosks • Personalized retail media network • Edge Computing capabilities for Loss Prevention • Micro-fulfillment • IoT & RFID enabled devices for DigitalTwins & Electronic Shelf Labels • Workforce Management Solutions

For more than a decade, AWS has been a leader in creating technology solutions that help retailers design and deploy smart-store strategies for transforming the physical store.

Digital in the store

Many retailers are trapped in legacy systems that prevent them from unlocking true omnichannel digital experiences that are the hallmark of a smart store. Here’s how these digital-in-the-store technologies from AWS and its Partners are making retailers smarter, more agile, and more profitable.

Unified-commerce solutions deliver a connected consumer experience, regardless of channel, by integrating marketing and operations on a single platform. Omnichannel strategies give consumers multiple ways to buy goods and services—both online and offline. For retailers, it opens new pathways to sales, customer loyalty, and business growth.

Other digital-in-the-store technologies—like Amazon Personalize, which allows developers to quickly build and deploy curated recommendations—are helping consumers better engage with a brand. The machine learning (ML)-powered solution makes it easier to integrate personalized recommendations into existing websites, applications, and email marketing systems. With mobile assisted selling apps built on AWS, in-store sales teams can engage with customers and help them from anywhere—a personalized, high-touch selling approach that was not available before.

New digital technologies can help customers place orders online and then drive to the store to collect them. US pet-store chain Petco, for example, kept fulfilling customer needs during the COVID-19 pandemic by developing a curbside pickup service that it deployed in just six weeks with the help of AWS Retail Competency Partner JBS Solutions (JBS).

In-store advertising is a smart way for consumer goods companies to expose shoppers to their products. A good example is Amazon Fresh groceries, an online and physical grocery store that uses a demand-side platform (DSP) on AWS to allow brands to programmatically purchase ad space in Amazon Fresh stores. When customers visit the store, they can tap Alexa voice capabilities to ask questions, get recommendations, and even be directed to product locations from their mobile device.

When you add smarts to your store, there is a host of useful insights you can deploy to make your operations more efficient, launch innovative new services, and attract more foot traffic. Parkland, under its Phillips 66 brand, is a great example of the power of store analytics. The Canadian convenience store chain has started testing AWS Panorama, an Edge Computer Vision solution that is expected to increase the speed and convenience of shopping and fueling at the store. When fully deployed, the store plans to benefit from an array of analytics, including automated “heat maps” to track in-store behavior and parking lot vehicle volume and license plate analysis to better manage customer traffic. Currently, the store plans to add computer vision to five to seven existing IP cameras at selected locations.

Enabling video intelligence with AWS Panorama high-level architecture

Empowering in-store operations

Day in and day out, retailers are challenged to keep their stores running at peak efficiency. From edge computing and in-store fulfillment options to loss prevention and workforce management, new Smart Store solutions are empowering retailers to handle the most complex store operations with the help of modern cloud technologies, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and analytics.

Edge-computing solutions on AWS can help retailers create a smart-store architecture that supports advanced capabilities like IoT and computer vision. With these solutions, which bring storage and compute abilities closer to devices and users, retailers can deliver unique in-store customer experiences and automate tasks to operate more efficiently.

Advanced electronic shelf labels, for example, are gaining traction in retail stores around the world. One of these label systems, made by VUSION Retail IoT platform, is now installed in over 300 retailers in more than 60 countries. Powered by AWS, the platform combines the most advanced electronic shelf labels technology: IoT ultra-low-power communication infrastructure, high-resolution color displays, sensors, and computer vision.

Retailers are also using edge and IoT technologies to curb inventory losses. These solutions provide secure near real-time data and monitoring services that can thwart potential theft and underpin a range of other benefits, including cold-chain monitoring, inventory management, and employee safety. Rigado IoT Edge-as-a-Service is one example of an AWS Partner solution that helps retailers create IoT edge infrastructures quickly, accelerating the move to Smart Stores solutions.

To keep their inventories at ideal levels, retailers need an accurate forecast of product demand. That’s why More Retail, a leading grocery company in India, deployed a new demand-forecasting and automated ordering system built on Amazon Forecast, a fully managed service that uses statistical and ML algorithms to deliver highly accurate time-series forecasts. The cloud-based system’s artificial intelligence (AI)/ML data science and learning algorithms outperform traditional methods of demand forecasting, resulting in higher levels of accuracy, improved stock levels, and lower food waste.

Meanwhile, new mobile-powered technologies by Singapore-based Trax can capture thousands of images of the store shelf and provide near real-time analytics to understand inventories and shelf layouts. AWS provides scalable compute and analytics to power this image-capture solution on mobile devices around the world.

Retail stores operate better when employees love their jobs. Smart Stores solutions powered by AWS can help retailers who are struggling with labor turnover and higher labor costs. Beekeeper Digital Workforce Platform, for example, is a new mobile-friendly service running on AWS that gives employees one place to look for shift schedules, paystubs, onboarding, training, and more. Companies using the AWS-based platform are seeing increased employee engagement, reduced turnover, and improved operational productivity.

Energy management and equipment monitoring are two more operational areas where Smart Stores solutions lead the way. One convenience store retailer is using Bosch Phantom Solutions on AWS to automate energy management of in-store refrigeration equipment and help achieve energy savings and sustainability goals. A leading US food-service chain deployed IoT sensors to automate the servicing and management of over 10,000 food-preparation appliances. The boost in uptime drove an annual savings of $25,000 per store and lifted revenue by 10 percent.

Frictionless checkout

It’s estimated that in 2022, 86 percent of US consumers have abandoned purchases because of long wait times in lines, leading to more than $38 billion in lost sales. To fix this problem, retailers have launched a variety of new checkout solutions, such as self-checkout, scan and go, home delivery, and click and collect. Consumers benefit from a more convenient and satisfying shopping experience, and retailers can increase in-store productivity by reassigning staff to handle high-value interactions and tasks.

When it comes to a hassle-free in-store shopping experience, Just Walk Out technology by Amazon is setting the standard. This leading-edge retail solution uses a combination of technologies to determine who took what from the store and lets customers breeze past the checkout line. When shoppers leave the store, they’re automatically charged for their purchases without pulling out their wallet. It’s perfect for time-pressed consumers on the go.

Just Walk Out technology by Amazon in-store customer experience overview

The traditional grocery store shopping cart is getting an upgrade with Amazon Dash Cart, an intelligent shopping cart that makes a quick grocery trip even quicker by allowing you to skip the checkout line. The tech-powered cart uses a combination of computer vision algorithms and sensor fusion to identify items shoppers put in their carts. When they leave through the store’s Amazon Dash Cart lane, sensors automatically identify the cart and the payment is processed using a preregistered credit card.

Dash Cart Gen2 image of physical cart with customization callouts

Another innovative technology that lets grocery store customers speed through checkouts is Amazon One, a fast, convenient, contactless identity service powered by the palm of their hands. They just hover their palm over the device to enter stores (and other venues), identify themselves, and pay. For store operators, it’s one more way to boost customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The smartphone is now becoming an integral part of the smart store. UK supermarket giant Sainsbury’s is taking the lead in this capability, launching a SmartShop mobile app that allows grocery customers to scan their items, pay, and skip the checkout queue. Other stores are using RFID tags to track merchandise and deploy frictionless checkout systems. TensorIoT, an AWS Retail Competency Partner, is a leader in this technology. In Seoul, AWS teamed up with Hyundai to harness IoT technology so that shoppers can leave stores without pausing to pay. The store’s frictionless checkout system uses AWS IoT Core, which lets you connect billions of IoT devices, to manage IoT device data in the store and Amazon Kinesis Video Streams, which makes it easy to securely stream video from connected devices to AWS, to manage video streams.

There’s more: smart–gas station operators now have a powerful tool to attract customers and drive loyalty. It’s a new mobile app that lets customers safely activate a pump and pay for gas. They simply use an Alexa app to find and activate the pump, pay for the gas, and then get a receipt by email. The entire experience is swift and convenient.

For drivers of electric vehicles, Amazon now offers a new way to find a nearby charging station. Drivers simply ask Alexa to find a station and they get a list of nearby locations with availability by plug type, as well as the time and distance to arrival. The service is connected to over 150,000 public stations in the United States.

Finally, in an omnichannel world, customers love self-service options. Amazon Hub Locker meets that need with secure self-service delivery locations where customers can easily pick up and return their packages. Retail stores that host these self-service lockers also enjoy tangible benefits, including new revenue from the extra foot traffic and in-store advertising dollars.

Find out how AWS and our extensive industry Partner network can support your retail transformation with Smart Store solutions. Download our ebook, Harness the Power of Smart Stores, and learn more at

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.

David Dorf

David Dorf

David Dorf leads Worldwide Retail Solutions at AWS, where he develops retail-specific solutions and assists retailers with innovation. Before joining AWS, David developed retail technology solutions at Infor Retail, Oracle Retail, 360Commerce, Circuit City, AMF Bowling, and Schlumberger’s retail and banking division. David spent several years working with NRF-ARTS on technology standards, is on the advisory board for the MACH Alliance, and supports the Retail Orphan Initiative charity. He holds degrees from Virginia Tech and Penn State.