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50 Future of Retail


issue 01


Shopper technology is only one of the ‘Three Pillars’ – Product, Service and Technology – that help maintain structure and deliver success instore.


thinking that is required to ensure that online and in- store experiences match up to customer expectations of the brand. Typically, it is premium retailers that provide us with


A


a glimpse into what we can expect from the stores of tomorrow. With the benefit of a small ‘flagship’ store portfolio and large marketing budgets, they are well placed to push boundaries and invest in short-run applications of new concepts. By comparison, most mainstream retailers will always


be followers. The likes of Topshop and H&M may be early adopters – often hot on the heels of innovative high-end retailers, but others take a more conservative view, although not one that is always considered and informed. It’s easy to appreciate why mainstream retailers have aspirations to be seen as being ‘on trend’. But whilst imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, it is not always either relevant or appropriate. Innovative technology works within high-end retailers


primarily because shoppers embrace them for what they are – beautiful one-off showpieces that amaze and delight. The epitome of ‘destination retail’ as flagship stores should be. But in reality, few shoppers will visit them with high frequency. It’s a key distinction that mainstream retailers must be mindful of, with many


re retailers close to cracking the omni- channel experience? No. Technology may be changing the way we shop, but the majority of retailers have still to get to grips with the fundamental shift in the


shoppers visiting their stores several times a month. Here, shoppers can quickly become fatigued by innovation that initially sparks interest, but fails to deliver any real benefit to the shopping experience. There is also the challenge for mainstream retailers of


achieving scalability. Is there the danger that technology with huge investment could amount to nothing more than a passing fad? Can innovations be successfully scaled to hundreds of stores? To do so would often prove costly. But perhaps, more to the point, should they be? Part of the inherent pull of newness is in the discovery


of something different. In the same way as carefully considered VM techniques can help to attach a sense of exclusivity to products, even mainstream retailers must be careful to avoid making innovations too accessible. Do so and they risk diluting its impact. There is nothing wrong with making shoppers search out new concepts, or have them long to travel beyond their nearest store – if something is genuinely ‘new’. All of this is rather academic, however, compared


to the pixelated elephant in the room. There are many innovative concepts on display in stores around the world that can help create engaging retail experiences, and enable brands to compete in new ways. But good retailers know that technology alone is not the universal remedy of success. For me, the biggest concern is that retailers have become too zealous in their adoption of technology within retail spaces, at the expense of fundamental retail best practices.


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