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Big Interview: Dixons Carphone on how to make retail truly seamless

While many critics claim technology and eCommerce is killing traditional retail, high-street stalwart, Dixons Carphone, remains one of the UK largest electronics and white goods retailer. And stores is a major part of its future strategy.

 “I think the landscape of retail is changing quite quickly,” Kash Ghedia, Head of Technology at Dixons Carphone, tells Essential Retail, explaining how the trend of customers buying online at Dixons Carphone is over 25% of total sales but a majority of customers still start their shopping journey online and end up in store.

“And stores must focus on services and fulfilment at all levels in every part of the customer journey, to allow customers to make the decisions to purchase as they would do online.”

He believes the role of the store is a major challenge for retailers going forward.

“The cost of operations is ever increasing and how do you keep the footfall and conversion ticking along nicely?” he asks.

“The retail industry keeps talking about omnichannel and multichannel methodologies, but my long term view is quite simple – you’ve got to change how you operate as a retailer based on data collected on how customers shop today online and you have to have build that seamless journey from online to in store.”

Reducing friction

Ghedia believes a big part of making retail seamless is to take away the friction points that disrupt the customer’s shopping experience.

“When you are shopping online, in a few clicks you can choose your product, it’s attributes such as size, colour and instantly check stock, reviews and compare prices thus speeding up the decision process– how do you navigate that in store?”

One of Ghedia’s in-store friction pet peeves is when customers don’t have product information at their fingertips.

“For example, you have reviews online, but you can never see them in a store, so you still have to whip out your phone,” he says.

“Or maybe you’re in store and you find out that the product you’ve been looking at for the last ten minutes is not in stock,” he adds. “When you spend half an hour travelling to a bricks and mortar store to see what you like and they don’t have it in stock or they don’t have the information about the product available, that’s a problem – hence why more and more people turn to online because the information is available and fulfilment is very quick, often same day if not next day.”

Online information at the shelf edge

At Dixons Carphone, Ghedia is trying to understand how to deploy more in-store technology which provides customers with the information they need, while also creating a little in-store theatre to demo products and show how they can benefit the buyer.

Electronic shelf labelling (ESL) is one technology he is interested in. He, like many other retailers, are beginning to see the potential in the technology as the price point has dramatically reduced in recent years.

If a customer enters a store, wanting more information about a camera, the ESL provides more information than a regular paper label, as well as up-to-date pricing, stock availability and credit options. The technology can also feature NFC allowing Android customers to tap their phone on the label to receive further information like online reviews, deep links into online product pages or even vouchers.

“It is online bits of information at the shelf edge,” describes Ghedia. “ESL provides most of those things you’d probably look for from an online product page, while they also decrease the cost of running a paper ticketing solution.”

AR & AI

Ghedia can also see augmented reality (AR) greatly changing the way customers shop for products in the near future. “You can take that TV they’re looking at in store and augment it back home to see how it looks in their room before they purchase.”

While one of the biggest game-changers for retail, according to Ghedia, is artificial intelligence (AI). “Further down the road, using AI and voice-activated technology will become key online and instore. Maybe it will be speaking to a robot and asking it if the store has a product in stock or product info,” he explains.

“It will also be a labour piece, because retailers never have enough staff to service all the customers in the store, so there has to be technology touch points which take that little bit of pain away and allows customers to get the information they need.”

But one of the biggest struggles for retailers, is not necessarily betting on the next biggest game-changing technology, but figuring out how to connect existing technologies to each other and legacy systems so that stores can generate data other than sales and footfall to help them shape their stores and behaviours with the customer.

“I don’t think anyone has a blueprint and retailers have to look at their customers and store estate,” answers Ghedia. “But for us, it’s much more around how do we provide technology that’s not for technology’s sake, but enhances the proposition to the customer, makes stores more efficient to run and creates a friction-free customer centric shopping experience.”

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