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Can you build the store of the future?

Can you build the store of the future?

Brand innovation labs are no longer just looking at innovations for products; every touchpoint with a customer is under the microscope as brands strive to win the war for retailer of the future. The battle is being fought everywhere, from ecommerce to customer communications and bricks and mortar stores, and the big names in every category want to be No 1.

But the omnichannel battle is largely being fought on foreign shores, with the majority of UK retailers only just starting their omnichannel journeys. Don’t let that scare you; there are still quick wins. You don’t need to beat the Apple Store - yet. Look at Marks & Spencer: the 133-year-old retailer started out simply by bringing product information into the store utilising iPads. Now, more than 30% of the retailer’s website traffic comes from its mobile phone app, while 62% of online sales are now picked up in stores.

It’s a similar story at John Lewis, with online accounting for 40% of their total sales in the six weeks to 31 December 2016; sales from mobile devices were up 80% in that same period, while shop sales were up just 0.8% in comparison. The vast majority of consumers preferred the convenience of online of click and collect, but Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership says that it's with the omnichannel customer that they see the most value. “Yes, there are now a lot more digital-only shoppers but they aren’t our focus. The most valuable shoppers are the ones who shop across multiple channels as they tend to spend a lot of money with us." 

Even Harrods is getting involved; Ralph Lauren’s Polo collection was launched using NFC and QR codes in Harrods window displays, which drove the customer online to an interactive map and more detailed information. Even if the store was closed, the customer could still engage with the collection.

Morrisons goes one step further; its own ecommerce platform comes through a deal with Ocado, but it also serves as a wholesale partner to Amazon, providing Amazon Fresh with own-label fresh food items.  CEO David Potts says their partnership with a progressive digital first brand such as Amazon is key to their growth.


The “total retail experience”

“We’re seeing this convergence where it’s the best of both worlds. It’s centred around extraordinary technology and extraordinary customer service,” says Steven Barr, retail and consumer leader at pwc. Rather than treating online and in-person sales as two separate channels, he says, “We’re finally entering that state where we can say there is a total retail experience.”

IBM just acquired the Expert Personal Shopper (XPS) division of Fluid, a leading innovator in digital customer experiences, and is looking at how to utilise that tech to personalise the customer experience and provide interactive recommendations through e-commerce platforms. The dialogue-based product recommendation platform is designed to personalise the customer experience, providing tailored, interactive recommendations through e-commerce platforms. It’s now, of course, going to team up with Watson. Imagine deploying that sort of tech in-store, too: robots on racks to help steer recommendations? A voice-activated personal shopper?

To make the most of the possibilities, you should always leverage each channel for its strengths to drive optimal customer experience and gather rich data. Mobile gives immediacy and convenience; bricks and mortar is more sensory, there for advice and inspiration. What about social? AR or VR? The conversations you have with customers can help drive innovation in your products, and growth in your business.

Shazam powers a platform for spirits brand Beam Suntory that utilises AR to bring a full Cinco de Mayo experience to drinkers; users who visually Shazam in-store creative will have the chance to play a co-branded AR interactive memory game. Alibaba Founder and Chairman Jack Ma calls this “New Retail”; it’s his dream operation: “Pure e-commerce will be reduced to a traditional business and replaced by the concept of New Retail - the integration of online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain.”

Next-generation commerce is certainly looking very different. Large retailers and niche specialists alike are leveraging technology to provide an integrated service anywhere, any time, keeping the consumer very much at the heart. For shoppers, it’s all about convenience; for retailers, it’s empowering more informed, better sales. What’s your next move to create an omnichannel experience for shoppers?

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