Technology has long been core to retailers staying at the forefront of the competition. The way in which shoppers make their purchases has evolved to include the use of smartphones, apps and contactless payments. These technological innovations will affect store layout, reflecting the fast-paced, savvy consumer.
Retailers are finding new ways to bring about advances that will make of the most of existing technology at shoppers' fingertips.
In-store communication is a great example of how retailers can make the most of smartphones. In-store digital technology can link up to point of sale (PoS) screens, providing marketing materials tailored to the individual, based on variables such as age and gender. Retailers could even do away with traditional price banners, as technology facilitates dynamic pricing according to time of day, the frequency of the shopper's visits or how busy the store is, for example. In Japan, retailers are already altering PoS and merchandising according to the time of day, targeting specific customers at different peaks of activity, so it is only a matter of time before we follow suit.
A major bugbear of many shoppers: the queue. Self-service machines have already become part of the retail landscape, however this is still within an area dedicated to checking out of the store. It is possible that wireless, and therefore mobile, scanners will develop and become integrated in baskets and trolleys. Using these alongside a digital wallet system will make payments instantaneous during the shopper's journey, doing away with the navigational cold spots of tills.
Store design will continue to use more virtual elements, to the extent that fitting rooms could soon become a thing of the past. Virtual overlays, in the style of mirrors, can show customers wearing an outfit, alongside the provenance of goods, stock levels, and even complementary add-on items. This stimulates the retail experience for a generation of shoppers who have grown up interacting with computers, mobile phones and apps on a day-to-day basis. A particularly interesting technology offering new flexibility to store design is 3D printing. In terms of merchandising, this could have huge economic benefits, reducing the cost of refits whilst allowing each store to have merchandising solutions that are totally bespoke.
Although we are some way away from seeing these advances becoming widespread, they are systems that are certainly on the near horizon or closer still. It is an exciting time as it feels that we are on the edge of a real shift in how technology is accepted by shoppers and retailers alike. And if the Japanese markets are anything to go by, they'll go down a storm.
Dr Tim Denison, director of retail intelligence at Ipsos Retail Performance, will be writing a regular Essential Retail column on in-store technology and the wider retail landscape.
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