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Comment: How many different ways can we shop?

On a wall, a tablet, a phone, a TV, or on a robot, a games device, or a watch and even some glasses or a fridge – the choice for customers is becoming endless and that's where retailers' relationships with shoppers need to be. But what will the next generation of shopping experience be?

This year, RBTE will showcase the very latest trends in the future of shopping.

As a special treat for this year's visitors, the event's organiser Legend has asked me, Morris Pentel, futurologist and experience designer, to create the shopping experience of tomorrow from the latest products available today, for visitors to experience at the exhibition.

In collaboration between RBTE and the Customer Experience Foundation, the exhibit will demonstrate how the latest retail innovations and the Internet of Things are changing the shopping experience.

Dubbed TheFutureStore.Today, it will take the form of an exhibition stand but demonstrate how technology and innovation will change the shopping experience for the consumer who can choose anything…. Your favourite supermarket or department store, a trendy boutique somewhere exotic – the possibilities are endless. Check out the YouTube video, below, featuring RBTE event director Matt Bradley, for more information on the concept.

From touching a wall to buy a product, to speaking commands the lights in a house 20 miles away to change colour, while watching the TV and tweeting and ordering pizza while chatting with friends through a video link while comparing your prices or doing it – all at the same time.

It's going to show visitors the latest techniques in blending their stores and digital experience to engage customers.

The unique stand represents what happens when retailers connect the digital experience to their website, call centre, app and high street store to the lives of their customers.

It's about turning shopping into a great customer experience. Remote staff will appear on robots and help you shop. They will display products that can be brought by simply touching a wall or using a phone on walls, and to experience the latest payment innovations visitors will be able to buy red noses for the comic relief charity with the latest tech.

We are bringing together things that are already starting to be used today and are really shaking things up in retail. Visitors are going to have a real future shopping experience at Olympia including virtually visiting a real house on the other side of the city and taking control of it. They will also be able to try shopping remotely there.

It will be unique. TheFutureStore.Today is the biggest challenge of my career.

The team is going to show you some of the coolest stuff that is likely to challenge your technology thinking using only what is available today.

Some of the world's leading innovators are getting involved. But it's not just about how innovation is changing for the retailer but it is also about how customer behaviour drives that change. We are going to demonstrate how the consumer can manage their relationship with you.

We are also going to show retailers just how much they can do with their phones or tablets. Relationships, information sources, content, home communication channels and devices are becoming easier and easier to control while I'm shopping. We are also going to show you the customer's side of the experience. It is the 'beholders share' of the experience that is changing the most. You are no longer trying to deliver an experience because you are part of a single experience belonging to the customer.

We have been looking all over the world for the ways that different innovations are delivered in the retail space but also how customers are using them. We are going to show some of the very latest things from some of the biggest and smallest companies on the planet.

There is another side to TheFutureStore.Today project. All of these innovations are a threat as well an opportunity – they are changing what customers expect from retailers.

Innovations are giving customers more power in the relationship. It's becoming easier and easier for customers to switch suppliers. One of the most common issues I have seen developing around the world is that customers have access to more information than the front-line staff that are often discouraged from looking at social media and surfing the internet during work time. One major global retailer recently said it feels like we are simply outmatched by customers who are better informed and it's hitting our bottom line. Today we are working on a major programme to address the balance.

TheFutureStore.Today will give retailers a clearer understanding of the issues that arise from the increase in customer power and, of course, it is going to wow visitors at next year's show, which takes place at London Olympia between 10-11 March 2015.

To find out more about this programme keep your eye on the Essential Retail & RBTE websites over the coming months. You can see the video and get involved with the project here.

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