Retail technology is ensuring there are exciting developments in store

BY Australian Retailers Association
20 February 2015

technology, computer, motherboard, digital“All of our innovations have been led by Australians.”

When a brand superpower like McDonald’s gives an endorsement like this to the incredible innovations being undertaken by brave Australian businesses, you know an important technological corner has been turned.

McDonald’s Australia CEO, Andrew Gregory, ushered this phrase recently after opening what will surely become a historic new chapter in the legacy of this iconic brand. It’s a case of a business simply moving with the times - the biggest brands are always the first to react when technological advances give them the means to advance themselves. McDonald’s are not the first to be taking these steps, they are simply doing their duty as a world-leading brand in bringing shoppers into the next stage of the digital revolution humanity finds itself in.

Here, we look at what brands, big and small, are doing as they design the stores of the future.

TASTE IS ABOUT TO GET TECHNICAL

You don’t need me to tell you that McDonald’s is a global giant. The pioneers of fast food created a customer experience that had never been seen before and stuck to that winning formula for more than seventy years. So it’s a pretty big deal when they decide to trial a revolutionary new way of doing things.

This is a new world where shoppers are now using multiple channels – led by their mobile phones – to surf, compare and even purchase. That’s why Sydney’s Castle Hill restaurant has become a ‘customer learning lab’ where hungry visitors can customise the brand’s world-famous burgers using advanced touchscreen digital kiosks to ‘create your taste’. McDonald’s plan to roll out a further ten customer learning lab restaurants in 2015, with a mobile ordering app leading their research.

SOHO IS WHERE INNOVATIVE BRANDS GO

McDonald’s are not the first to create hubs where they can test the stores of the future, they are simply leading the way on this side of the world. However, one small part of Manhattan is leading the way for the whole world. At a time when stores are closing as consumers make the move to online sites, the iconic SoHo area has seen an explosion of online sites opening bricks and mortar stores, all testing revolutionary new ways of doing things.

Best known as an online e-commerce site, Warby Parker sells eyewear… but has no cash register, few staff and limited storage space. Shoppers are free to try on glasses and even step into an onsite photobooth, upload their snaps to their social media site to get the opinions of their friends on their new frames or print them out in Polaroid-like strips on the spot. If they like what they see, they jump onto one of the onsite iPads, order them online and have them delivered to their home. It’s an offline experience, onsite, and it’s one that is being repeated elsewhere.

Online jewellery retailer BaubleBar has embraced digital signage and set up a pop-up shop of interactive touchscreens. Shoppers use iPads to design their own jewellery before having the final product created offsite and sent to their homes. Like Warby Parker, the store is designed to bring the conversion-driving features of the brand’s website to a physical retail environment. The innovative company uses the inexpensive pop-up store as a way to reach new customers that will then continue shopping with the company online after the store closes.

GAYE’S FIVE TRENDS SHAPING THE STORE OF THE FUTURE

  1. A personal shopper in your pocket
    In-store technology like Apple’s iBeacon will deliver highly relevant and personal content directly to shopper’s mobile phones welcoming them upon entering a store, pointing out where their favourite products are and alerting them to deals.
  2. B.I.Y: Buy It Yourself
    When Apple suggests it, it usually takes hold! Its EasyPay self-mobile checkout is sure to become one of the biggest revolutions in retail for decades, allowing customers to locate, scan and pay for products without the need for a store employee to needlessly interrupt them.
  3. Virtual changing rooms
    Augmented reality is a technology that has been around for the last few years but has yet to really make an impact as flaws in this new technology are still being ironed out. However, it’s just a matter of time before the virtual world successfully merges with the physical world via consumers' mobile phones, allowing shoppers to move through a store and see how they would look wearing something without actually trying it on.
  4. Your shopping delivered from the skies
    Admit it - we all thought Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was joking when he suggested ‘Octocopter’ drones would fly packages directly to shoppers’ doorsteps within 30 minutes. However, like Apple, when a company of Amazon’s status suggests something you can be sure you’ll be seeing it within the next few years.
  5. Rise of the little guy
    Millions of stores all selling the same products and constantly undercutting each other to the point of extinction can’t go on forever. So expect to see a rise in smaller pop up stores selling their own creations to their own fan base. Crowd-funding sites like KickStarter are already giving rise to the little guy and in the future, you could be responsible for the foundation of the next McDonald’s.

A final word… One of the ways that retail is different from some other industries is that we’re all part of it, either as consumers, suppliers, distributors or the retailer. The digital consumer is in the driver’s seat. We’re not mere observers to these industry-morphing trends; we will all experience them first hand.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Australian Retailers Association

Founded in 1903, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) is Australia’s largest retail association representing Australia’s $310 billion sector, which employs more than 1.2 million people. As the retail industry’s peak representative body, the ARA works to ensure retail success by informing, protecting, advocating, educating and saving money for its 7,500 independent and national retail members throughout Australia. For more information, visit www.retail.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

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