Customers’ experiences and expectations have changed drastically both online and in-store in recent years. Technology has been at the cutting edge of these changes and embracing innovation has been key to retailers succeeding or not.
A great example of that has been Alibaba who have developed a highly successful interactive supermarket called Hema throughout China. Hema is the “complete digitalisation” of “new retail” as we know it, with in-store restaurants where shoppers can select live seafood and eat on the spot for an interactive eating experience. It also offers an online fulfilment centre through which shoppers receive free delivery in less than 30 minutes if they live nearby. A huge part of their success has come from a combination of a user-friendly app and barcodes on all items which provide merchandise information including brand heritage, price points, sourcing, and nutritional value to customers. The days of piling goods into a shopping trolley and handing over cash at the till point are fading fast; shoppers at Hema can "graze and pay" as they go providing a more streamlined customer experience.
Another example is Amazon, which developed the first artificial intelligence powered Amazon Go store in Seattle. Shoppers scan their smartphone at a turnstile to automatically pay for items when they leave. The store creates a completely effortless shopping experience with no human interaction, a concept that puts convenience and ease ahead of all else.
At first sight, IKEA appears to be a large blue box retailer that asks customers to service themselves with limited interaction. While this is partially true, IKEA has moved forward by listening to its customers and modernising the shopping experience by using an app to virtually visualise future purchases without leaving the comfort of your own home. They have recently taken this further and made the shopping experience fully virtual, allowing customers to walk around the stores through a virtual platform, clicking on items for information and then buying those items as they go.
There isn’t a one size fits all model and these examples show that there are a variety of ways in which retailers can embrace technology and innovation. However, it’s clear that those who don’t keep pace and embrace new technology risk being left behind with customers finding somewhere else to shop!
So what is next for the UK retail sector… and more importantly who will be the real digital game changers?
Categories: Retail Recruitment