In the recent artcile in Commercial Integrator Europe Hannu Anttila, VP marketing and business development at VividWorks Ltd, explores the retail revolution – and how technology is changing the way consumers shop.

According to influential retail commentator Walter Loeb, this period of ‘revolutionary change’ is accelerating as the 2020s approach, with the Internet continuing to influence shopping in new and more disruptive ways. All retailers with a stake in the high street need to come to terms with what this change means for their stores, both in terms of methodology and more importantly, technology.

This sort of technological initiative is designed to combine the excitement of shopping online with a more physical in-store experience. “Technology is reshaping how consumers shop,” a recent edition of Forbes quotes Loeb as saying. “Retailers that resist the changes coming about will not survive. Those that embrace technology and let the consumer be in charge will thrive.”

It is indeed crucial to allow consumers to feel as if they are in charge. Online shopping, of course, allows consumers to buy at their leisure with no pressure from a sales assistant. For high street retailers to thrive they must transfer this shopping experience to the consumer, using exciting yet practical technology to both enhance in-store shopping and also echo and dovetail with the experience of online shopping.

Loeb predicts a resurgence of high street shopping by 2020, including additional outlets from Internet-based retailers such as Amazon – presumably because consumers will begin to feel more comfortable shopping offline again, as retailers crack the formula of physical-meets-Internet-meets-tech (Loeb doesn’t say).

In the meantime, there are many ways in which retailers can get high streets buzzing with technology, with the online journey continuing in store – rather than halting at the door where there are often no smart technologies to bridge the gap between device and store. Technology should have a use and a benefit (not tech for tech’s sake), so displays should be more than static shop windows, bringing interactive video and sound at the forefront too. They should also react to the consumer’s presence (via wayfinding), perhaps feeding back purchasing suggestions.

According to a whitepaper by Aspire Systems, there are five stages of in-store customer experience – Invitation, Discovery, Evaluation, Fulfillment and Extension – and these can be brought alive with the right technology. A thorough understanding of the importance of this technology in meeting customer demands is essential in an omnichannel environment.

“There is clearly a need for retailers to… invest in technologies that not only create a fantastic in-store experience but also allow shoppers to channel-hop without friction,” the whitepaper concludes. “To connect with the digital shopper, physical stores must function as cross-channel hubs that place the customer at the centre of action and provide experience on multiple levels.”

 Read the full CI article here.

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