You may have read my colleague Ray Ffrench’s blog “Where’s the blini!” which tells the tale of his son being unable to help a customer find the right product whilst working on the shop floor of a leading UK grocery supermarket.
Using that example as a jump off point, I’d like to touch on the related future digital innovations that are being trialled and rolled out across the retail industry that will help solve that type of problem for customers and staff, as well as many more.
In terms of that specific issue, I’d say the ‘best of breed’ technical solution would be the smart phone app of a leading US supermarket. They promote their app as “Making shopping in-store a breeze by finding items quickly, checking prices, making a list and getting store info all within your app”. This is one of the many examples of retail innovation moving from a set of niche users into the mainstream, fuelled by the near complete saturation of smart phone usage.
Another development gaining traction across leading in-store retailers is the use of Digital displays to aid the customers (and staff). These provide useful product information whilst improving store navigation; I’ve seen such Digital Shelf-edge Labels used to promote the fairness and ethical sourcing ethos of a retailer as it shows where the produce came from and even the profit margin derived by the retailer. The frequency and speed with which such displays can be updated saves a significant amount of collateral cost and resource time for the retailers. To put it in to context I worked with a leading UK Supermarket that printed and distributed 4 million paper labels, pricing and promotion pieces every single month. The impact upon the environment is also a key consideration for the retailer when looking to move away from the paper based ticket displays.
Other retailers’ mobile apps enable store specific layout mapping with specific product placement on individual shelves. The digital and physical convergence enabled through such apps showcase what’s possible as they combine deep product information and personalisation into the customers purchase journey. Augmented Reality has also been used to provide product information through in-store apps to enable customers to search for the most suitable products, receive push notifications for appropriate promotions and gain a deeper insight to improve the buying decision process.
As many retailers have recognised that it is difficult to get customers to keep such apps on their phones these services are increasingly being offered through a browser.
The process of using technology to aid a customer’s in-store purchase, such as clienteling, shoppable displays / windows and mirrors, all need to be based off a high quality data source fed by the retailers systems. Also in-store Wi-Fi is a key enabler whilst also acting as a mechanism to capture some user data. Retail systems such as the Product Information Management, Warehouse stock management and Customer Relationship Management applications can all contribute to improving the customers experience. The end user interaction is usually at the end of a long programme to ensure the right information is available at the right time. Each year CGI interview a wide range of clients and publish the findings, below are a range of relevant metrics that show the industry trends within Retail. They paint a picture of an industry that believes in Omni-channel as the established norm but is still struggling to adopt Agility & Digital Transformation, specifically showing unhappiness with the change brought by their IT organisation.
- 79% of clients across Europe believe Omni-channel is now the new normal, to shop at any time from any device.
- Only 16% of clients say their organisation is agile enough to address digital transformation
- Only 25% of clients have introduced or deployed agility across the enterprise
- Interestingly when asked to score their IT departments out of 10 for “Consistently introducing applicable innovations for the business” the average score amongst Retail business leaders was only 5.2, the lowest metric recorded.
As the supermarket referenced in the blini example above may soon find out, if you don’t service your customers correctly, someone else will.
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