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The shape of convenience is changing. Recent digital innovation in the retail space has seen some key players push the boundaries of how technology can be implemented to offer a more creative, multi-channel experience for their customers. If brands and retailers want to stand out from the competition, there’s a clear need to maximise the enjoyment, relevance and surprise that new technology can deliver.
Shopping could soon become a more tactile experience. Household names such as outdoor clothing label The North Face and even IKEA have embraced the concept of VR by allowing customers to experience rock climbing with top athletes or design their own kitchen.
Start-up business Iconeme have already offered a glimpse of the future may look by experimenting with tech that is one step beyond iBeacons by adding electrical implants to mannequins that can communicate with a nearby shopper's smartphone.1
Touch screen mirrors, motion-sensors and tracking capability pioneered by eBay and executed by luxury brand Rebecca Minkoff in New York suggest the future of retail will be centred around a truly personalised customer experience. ‘Connected stores’ such as these could well be powered by RFID (Radio-frequency identification) tags too. All the while, gathering consumer data.
While the idea of drone delivery has been discussed for some time but US fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill are currently running a pilot program that uses drones to deliver their food in association with Google’s parent company Alphabet.2
Digital and theatrical, fashion giant Burberry is a good example of how embracing technology can help create a truly immersive experience. Their Shanghai store includes 40 video screens, 130 speakers, live events and even the use of RFID chips woven into selected apparel.3
Finland-based start-up IndoorAtlas has released an app that allows stores to monitor shoppers via indoor magnetic fields. This data allows stores to monitor shoppers who have the software on their smartphones and tailor coupons and ads accordingly.
Smart vending machines are fitted with cameras that can look at the customer and work out their demographic details, like their age and gender, in order to promote products that they will be most interested in.4
Artificial intelligence is increasingly being used to create a more personalised shopping experience for customers. Stitch Fix, for example, send subscribers a box of apparel chosen for them by a mixture of human and AI stylists.5
Swedish car manufacturer Volvo recently demonstrated the safety features of their new models in a new way – by not using any cars. Potential customers were instead given a headset that projected a model of the car and highlighted the new feature.6
While creating an environment which promotes effortless shopping has always been the aim of retailers the speed of innovation is now so rapid that even companies which embrace technological advances are finding that the pace of change, is far quicker than they may have anticipated. Physical stores that are completely integrated with digital technology stand a better chance of succeeding in a world where customers will increasingly want to personalise their retail experience.
From strategy through to the use of architecture and personalisation there are a host of opportunities for IT retail managers to investigate and make the best use of their customers’ time and attention. Imagine a world where sales staff can find out exactly what’s been taken into a dressing room, what’s been left behind and what’s being purchased. The use of interactive mirrors at the flagship Ralph Lauren store in New York, for example, lets customers look through a real-time sales inventory, request different sizes and colours as well as interact with a sales assistant.7
With 62% of millennials in the UK saying they would appreciate a brand or retailer using artificial intelligence tech to show them more interesting products it’s little wonder also that retailers are increasingly placing innovation at the core of their strategies.8
Retail is no longer just about the right product in the right place at the right time but more about delivering an immersive experience that caters to customers’ needs, and is driven by entertainment and emotion to keep them coming back for more. Other forward-thinking retailers aren’t just concerned with price and service but creating a genuinely immersive shopping experience - with one eye firmly on capturing customer loyalty.
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