- Vivian Hendriksz |
London - The retail sector is no stranger to innovation, thanks to the rise of technology. The first self-service supermarket opened in Britain back in 1947, revolutionizing how customers shop for good. The debut of the barcode in 1979 changed the retail landscape, paving the way for even bigger, more diversified, logistical operations. However, over the past few years, it has become clear that the growth of technology has sped up, as new innovations from drone delivery to AI chatbots and mobile shopping are set to disrupt the industry once more.
Innovation has benefitted both retailers and consumers and although the number of physical stores has decreased since the 20th century, both shoppers and brands still see brick and mortar stores are a central part of the retail experience. But this rapid rise technology has posed some cause for concern while presenting an immense opportunity for retail, according to a new report from retail analytic firm Global Data in partnership with UK retail property specialist Hammerson.
Innovation continues to present new opportunities for retail
'Retail Innovation: Past, Present and Future' found that 84 percent of the public believe people spend too much time their mobile devices and are unable to switch off from work. 52 percent of 16 to 24 year old say that mobile devices have made them more reluctant to talk to people face to face. However, when it comes to the retail experience, most customers still value a 'human experience' over a machine. 59 percent of shoppers prefer to use a till staffed by an actual person as 65 percent are concerned with the security of mobile payments.
As part of the research for the report, John Lewis and Debenhams shared their insights on the emergence of technical innovations. "There is no doubt that technology has enhanced and improved our business efficiency, whether it is accurate records of stock or the insight it gives us into how our customers want to shop," said John Lewis. Access to a greater pool of customer data has enabled retailers to better target investment across all retail channels, as customers demand a seamless shopping experience.
"What the customer wants is control over what they are getting when," said Debenhams. "If they are busy, they want control over when they try products on when they pick purchases up. It is about control." Smartphones are one medium which have helped consumers gained more control and empowerment when it comes to shopping. 34 percent of shoppers purchase products via their mobile at least once a week, thanks to the increasing delivery options offered by retailers. In addition, 31 percent of customers say new options for delivery collection and returns have a higher influence of where they shop now than they did 5 years ago.
Emerging technologies, such as mobile shopping were found to be more popular among younger, female groups. According to the report, they are typically most enthusiastic about a wide range of emerging technological innovations such as virtual reality and local-based marketing campaigns. In addition, women were generally more welcoming than their male counterparts when it came to embracing innovations that enhance the retail experience, such as virtual mirrors.
"Whilst the rise of technology is often characterized as a relatively recent phenomenon, our research demonstrates that innovation has been disrupting and shaping the retail industry for decades – and that this has benefitted both consumers and retailers," commented David Atkins, CEO, Hammerson in a statement. "Encouragingly, both brands and customers continue to see the physical store as central to the retail experience, and our retailers emphatically agree that the store portfolio will remain a fundamental part of their strategy in the future. Overall it seems evident that technology is not the enemy at the gate, but rather an opportunity for landlords and retailers to embrace."
Photos: via Pexels