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Bricks and mortar retail is not dead, it’s just changing.
Although it seems like every day we hear of another famous high-street staple going into administration, it isn’t necessarily that city and town centres are quiet, but perhaps more that those who do not adapt, do not survive.
We’re in the midst of the ‘4th Industrial Revolution’, which leaves us without a doubt that technology adoption is the natural progression of retail into 2020, and in spite of that, there are still obviously many stores we visit regularly that show no signs of even implementing the groundworks for these technologies. It’s almost surprising these days, when you go into a major retailer and it does not have its own Wi-Fi!
So, let’s have a look at some of the key points we feel bricks and mortar retailers need to consider in their plans for 2020.
If we look on the face of things, it’s easy to understand the concept of people being influenced and inspired into certain shopping habits through social media influencers and Snapchats, but how does that affect their shopping habits in-store?
Retail plays into the idea of instant gratification, so using social media to inspire a need to buy a certain product, then offering the opportunity to own it straight away in a physical store can be tempting for any consumer.
Offering Wi-Fi in-store gives your potential buyers the chance to curate their shopping lists on social media and act on them, not only that, but if your brand has it’s own app, you could even integrate online shopping lists into convenient digital maps that take your potential buyer right to the product they’re interested in.
Buying aside, offering your in-store customers social media touchpoints around the shop can lead to your customers becoming a tribe of brand advocates, happily sharing your products and shop on social media in a money-can’t-buy style of advertising.
Let’s look at London eatery The Knot Churros, they have a small store in terms of floorplan, but they offer wi-fi for their customers, and most importantly a feature Instagram opportunity. A large portion of the front of their store is dedicated to a beautiful swing with a very instagrammable backdrop. Customers can sit here with their churros and create gorgeous and potentially viral content without The Knot needing to push for this at all.
It’s annoying when you fall in love with something in a shop, but then you find it’s not in stock in your size, chosen colour or specification. That’s always the risk with retail, and often where online shopping has a major advantage, as their stock systems are linked directly to distribution warehouses.
However, the often talked about advantage of physical stores, is that you can experience first-and the product’s quality, fit, and true colour, amongst other features. You are less likely to return something you have experienced in its physical form before purchase.
So how do you combine these two advantages? Let’s look at how Ikea manages this.
Ikea implemented plenty of touch screen interfaces, which are situated around the store. At this digital hub, you can not only search for your items, but you can also find out where in the store they are kept, and find the complementary products you might need to fit and install the product. Best of all, if your product is not in stock, you can use these hubs to order home delivery from their central warehouse.
A few other retail stores have this feature, such as Topshop and Office shoes, who do not have digital hubs, but can use their integrated stock management system to order an item for next day delivery to a customer.
They say the high street is dying, and if that’s the case what is the point in landlords keeping empty shops for months, and sometimes years at a time. Wouldn’t you prefer to have a short-term contract with low rent filling that space in the interim, than have it empty?
More local councils need to investigate the idea of filling empty shops with Pop-Up Shops. There are plenty of online services that will advertise your shop space to a list of digital brands and start-ups looking for a temporary high-street presence.
If landlords and councils invest a little in digital solutions for their empty shops, they can instantly create a highly desirable unit. Installing ad-hoc wi-fi or city centre wi-fi where everyone can hop on to the network on a more flexible usage term offers plenty of lucrative business opportunity.
It’s a step in the direction of the Smart City, and it comes with numerous advantages for retail.
Offering wi-fi access means pop-up retailers can quickly hook up portable EPOS systems such as Square, Shopify and Sum Up, It also allows them to facilitate launch parties and marketing events that rely heavily on social media coverage from influencers and guests.
Self service checkouts faced some criticism on their initial launch, people worried they would be unusable, un-intuitive and slowly adopted, but many people found them a much more convenient solution to their shopping.
Now we’re seeing more implementation of smart scanners, which allow customers to scan their baskets as they go, keeping track of their current spend, alerting them to offers and making the checkout process as easy as plugging in the scanner to the till and paying the total.
These smart in-store systems can be easily linked in to the customer's loyalty points card, which gathers valuable, unique data on each customer and their buying habits. This allows the supermarket to then retarget offers that are more likely to capture that particular customer’s attention.
For example, if the loyalty card is tracking that a customer often buys gluten free food, it makes sense to alert that particular customer to offers on new gluten free foods, and offer them vouchers and coupons for those specific things.
These in-store options give the customer flexibility to move between retail and ecommerce extremely smoothly. When a customer creates an online account, they can link up their loyalty card to that account and re-order past shops at the click of a button, with some suggestions from the smart data offered to them as well.
All of these innovations aim to remove the monotony of the weekly shop and bring supermarket shopping right up to date technologically.
Need a cabling or wi-fi infrastructure for your smart shopping IT systems? Let us know, we can help.
Artificial Intelligence and VR, once in the realm of sci-fi now enter reality, and shops should be quick to adopt. Many websites already offer the chance to use a saved image to search for similar styles of product on their online shop (think Google reverse image search), and Instagram allows people to tag shoppable items so users can instantly click through to a buying page.
ASOS uses their app to track their customer’s wishlist items and AI learning then suggests items in a similar style to buy.
In-store, hooking up to a shop’s wi-fi, and booting up their dedicated app should allow for similar systems. Users should be able to use images to search for items in store, making instant gratification on trending items just as easy as online. They should also be able to get smart suggestions and offers pinged to their phone in store, generated from analytics of their past buying habits.
The beauty industry isn’t one to be left behind when it comes to technology. Take a look at the way Clinique uses tailored customer profiles stored on their online system to keep track of skincare consultations and their customer’s favourite products. Clinique customers may never need to remember a product name or type again, as it will always be there after a quick lookup from a sales person.
It’s the same with No.7 cosmetics, who offered a skin scan that utilises digital systems to match customers with their most exact, perfect match foundation colour.
B&Q have cornered the customised product paint market with their Valspar brand, customers can bring in a photo, sample or digital image of any colour, and their scanning system can match the colour as closely as possible, mixing up a custom paint colour. Best of all, Valspar can mix up multiple sample pots, and store the colour data under a customer profile, meaning customers can simply pop in and get their personalised profile brought up by any sales person. Digital is the new marker of convenience.
Facilitating these systems can be as simple as providing in-store wi-fi systems and cabling for networks.
How do you think retail will change in 2020? Which adoptions of technology do you think are essential?
Investing heavily in new distribution, logistics and staffing initiatives, Sainsbury's approached Ensign to provide wireless LAN infrastructures to hundreds of Sainsbury’s stores across the British Isles.
In order to meet increasing product demand, JLR’s UK parts distribution operation was moved to Liverpool, with plans to operate out of a new 400,000 sq ft site on the Phoenix Industrial Estate at Ellesmere Port.