The retail industry is an evolving field that is transforming into an online-heavy experience. Many customers prefer to shop from the comfort of their homes, however, the in-store experience is still the favorite for many. Both online shopping, as well as in-store shopping, encounter unique problems, including not having the tangible shopping experience and instant purchase satisfaction when buying online and not being able to find sales associates when in the store. In stores, customers are tired of waiting for shopping assistants to help and endlessly searching through racks of clothing. Shopping assistants are also stressed as they multitask between assisting customers to search for items, opening dressing rooms, and restocking inventory. Our team wanted to alleviate these common shopping stressors and improve the in-store retail experience for both employees and customers. We identified this communication gap in the retail industry and seamlessly combined the preference for the convenience of technology with the tangible in-store customer experience.

We recognized these problems in the retail environment and as a result, we created Shopstar. Shopstar is an Amazon Alexa skill that is designed to function as an in-store virtual shopping assistant. Shopstar includes four main features: store information, product search, employee contact, and overall improved customer experience. Customers will be able to interact with Shopstar to receive answers about basic questions regarding products instead of contacting employees, which will free up time for employees and managers to work on other tasks like inventory management and restocking products. To do this, customers ask Alexa to “open Shopstar” and then answer a series of questions using key identifiers of the product, such as the size, color, or brand of the item they are searching for. These identifiers are then held inside “slots”, which essentially function as variables to hold the user input so that the program would be able to search for any items to match the requirements in a matter of seconds. If the store has matching products, Alexa would possibly say, “Yes. Would you like me to contact an associate to you for further assistance?”. This form of interaction would not only revitalize the in-store shopping experience for customers, but also alleviate a lot of stressors for retail environments.

We have decided to work with Cheeky Peach, a retail clothing store in Athens, Georgia and we are continuing to collect research and observations in order to better our idea. As technology continues to evolve and the shift to online shopping becomes more prominent, we wanted to create something that preserved the unique in-store retail experience. We hope that Shopstar not only improves the customer experience but can also be implemented in the future. Shopstar has the potential to shape the way boutiques operate and improve the overall efficiency of retail processes.