The Debate Continues: To Introduce or Not to Introduce In-Store Technologies?

Last week over 200 in-store innovators from 120 enterprise retailers, gathered at Future Stores in the Victoria Park Plaza in London. The event is a ‘one-stop-shop’ for retailers seeking practical solutions to accelerate their in-store transformation projects from concept to reality.

There were many interesting topics covered from in-store design to leveraging data from digital channels to adapt in-store experiences. The common thread throughout all the conversations, presentations and debate – was putting the customer at the heart of all strategies and initiatives; from driving customer engagement to improving their experience and making their shopping journey as easy as possible.

One of the most interesting debates was about the use of technology in-store. It was abundantly clear retailers are either embracing it or running in the opposite direction. There are perfectly legitimate reasons as to why a retailer is on one side of the fence or the other.

Where a retailer has a high turnover of sales staff with busy stores and peaks at checkout tills, utilizing technology on the shop floor can certainly enhance the customer’s experience. In this scenario, arming sales assistants with access to stock levels, personalized recommendations and complementary products plus the ability to take payments on the shop floor, improves the experience for customers, saving them time and results in more sales and less returns.

However, if a retailer has highly trained, loyal sales assistants who are knowledgeable and enthusiastic product advocates, who act as personal advisors to their shoppers, supporting technology to help the sales process is arguably reduced.

Regardless of the environment or scenario, it’s agreed that technologies introduced to the in-store experience should be complementary to the shopping journey – not a distraction for associates and shoppers alike.

Ultimately, it will be the customer who decides. As our ‘Creepy/Cool’ survey from 2015 revealed, shoppers also have different attitudes towards technology in-store. Where some shoppers embrace features such as facial recognition and interactive mirrors making product suggestions in changing rooms as cool, others are turned off at the mere thought. Therefore, the type of customer a retailer has will influence their use of technology in-store. That said, attitudes can and often do change over time, and I’m certainly looking forward to the latest ‘Creepy/Cool’ survey results, which are out in the next few weeks.

Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the debate at Future Stores, and we’re looking forward to their next event in Seattle in just a few weeks time.

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Harriet is Director of Marketing in EMEA for RichRelevance and is responsible for all marketing activities across the region.

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