The future of retail is already here 

The retail sector is one of the most advanced in the use of consumer facing technology. Faced with strong competition from online retailers, the use of innovative technology – supported by in-store wireless – is being used to help encourage people back onto the high street and into stores, as well as opening up new revenue streams and services for the stores.

In this blog post we take a look at some of the retailers that are already making use of technology to enhance the customer experience, and the role that wireless plays in providing this.

Picture1Time for dedicated apps

Shopping centres and stores are now increasingly rolling out their own dedicated apps, providing customers with information and support, as well as the latest offers and bargains.

London’s Westfield centre offers a simple, yet effective, example; its app provides customers with offers from their preferred stores, alongside ‘express parking’ that removes the need for a parking ticket to be purchased each visit. 

 

The endless shelf

The downside to shopping online is that we don’t get to see what we’re buying until it arrives, something that puts many people off when it comes to ‘big ticket’ items. On the other hand stores are limited by their physical storage and display space, limiting how much of their range they can stock and display at one time. There’s little more frustrating than seeing something online, visiting the store to see the physical product, and only then finding out it’s not actually in stock.

 

The Retail of Tomorrow project at Heidi.com’s flagship store in Switzerland attempts to tackle this issue, through the concept of the ‘endless shelf’. The store aims to stock a broad selection of its range, rather than a limited selection in many different sizes and editions. Customers can then get their hands on the product in some form, but then use large screens to view, select and order the product in the exact variation and fit required.

Picture2

At Burberry’s flagship store on Regent Street, RFID tags are woven into products and accessories, allowing them to be linked to digital product listing and related multimedia content. The mirrors throughout the store are actually screens, which use this information to automatically detect the product being tried-on by the customer and display relevant information.

This system also attempts to enhance the customer’s experience and relationship with the Burberry brand, allowing them to also view runway footage and live streams of fashion events.

The end of queuing

While it may be considered an integral part of the British psyche, queuing is nonetheless a big frustration for shoppers – particularly at the busiest times of the year. It can also lead to sales being lost because some customers will simply not join a long queue.

Retailers are now looking at ways of improving the checkout experience, with point-of-sale (PoS) terminals becoming more dispersed across the shop floor and also providing staff with tablets they can use to display products and take payment.

The other approach is building payment into a dedicated app — something Wagamama rolled out earlier this year. The app enables customers to pay directly and quickly through their smartphone, rather than having to get the attention of staff.

Picture3

Smarter customer service

Technology is enabling high street retailers to bring the personalised experience that customers enjoy online increasingly inside their stores, delivering recommendations based on previous purchases.

Rather than requiring a sales assistant to spend time asking questions to establish your likes and dislikes, simply scanning a loyalty card using a tablet can instantly provide the assistant with your purchase history – and even tailored special offers.

This functionality gives store staff more information than they’ve traditionally had access to, allowing them to enhance their credibility with customers, and enabling them to take advantage of information from product reviews and accessory lists that they may not otherwise be familiar with.

Virtual reality

Looking further ahead, virtual reality offers the potential to add a further dimension to both the in-store and at-home shopping experience. We’re already seeing some stores experimenting with this technology, thanks to the consumer-friendly offerings from Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

A notable example of this is William Hill, who are using it to bring punters much closer to races they’re betting on. Once a bet has been placed on a race, customers get to view the race from the PoV of the rider – in full, interactive 3D.

Picture4

Virtual reality could also be used to enhance the experience of customers at home, providing a much better idea of how a sofa or TV would look in their lounge, or by enabling them to explore in-store displays in much more detail.

The wireless need

All of these applications rely on some form of data connectivity, and the vast majority rely upon this being wireless connectivity. Whether that’s a secure and robust Wi-Fi network for staff tablets, or mobile coverage so customers can use your dedicated app, wireless is an essential component in the future of retail.

72% of consumers use their smartphone while shopping and more than half of consumers under the age of 40 use their smartphone to get a second opinion before making a purchase. Without proper connectivity, consumers can’t use their phone and are likely to go elsewhere as a result.

In fact, without proper connectivity, consumers may abandon the store altogether and not come back. Recent research has found that 1 in 4 (25%) shoppers admit that they leave a shop if they can’t get online, and 1 in 4 (25%) leave immediately if the shop does not provide Wi-Fi. By contrast, 1 in 3 (34%) extend their visit and nearly half (46%) return if the connectivity is good.

Retailers therefore need to consider a dedicated in-building wireless system, one that provides a clear business benefit to staff and customers alike. For more information take a look at our recent report on the benefits of wireless to the retail sector: http://www.realwireless.biz/wireless-and-retail/

Real Wireless joins Future Communications & Positioning System Advisory Group 

Guangzhou_South_Railway_Station_3F_East_ConcourseYesterday, Real Wireless attended the Intelligent Rail Infrastructure seminar from the IET. The event examined the physical and technical challenges associated with modernising our railway assets – a challenge that we have long considered in our work.

The reasons why this is a topic that interests us is that wireless offers the potential to revolutionise a global mode of transport. This is not just for passengers, where some individuals lose hundreds of hours each year outside of data connectivity, but also throughout the industry’s large and multinational ecosystem. With the advent of M2M communications, its potential to create a truly intelligent national transport network is highly desirable.

It’s to this end that Real Wireless is pleased to announce it has joined the cross rail-industry Future Communications & Positioning System Advisory Group (FC&PS AG), a sub-group of the Vehicle/Train Control and Communications System Interface Committee.

Members of the group include Network Rail, the Department for Transport, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), the ORR, train operators, RSSB and representatives from the wider communications industry.

The group’s aim is to provide advice and direction to the industry on communications and positioning technologies as enablers to the Rail Technical Strategy Vision 2012.

The FC&PS AG say they welcome our membership to the group,and look forward to our input in the fast moving area of digital wireless technology, particularly given our extensive experience of working in other industries than rail alone.

As a member, Real Wireless will therefore be providing expert input on both future wireless communications technologies, and the feasibility and practicalities of implementation to support the growth of rail communications in Britain.

This is an area we already have significant experience in, thanks to projects such as our landmark business case analysis that found passenger-facing services (ie: customer Wi-Fi) could not ever give ROI itself: it only can deliver this if it is one of a variety of operational benefits.

We look forward to participating at our first meeting in London on 19th May, providing insight and experience and supporting the growth of communications for the rail industry.

For an overview of the opportunities wireless offers for the transport network, download our free guide The business opportunities for wireless in transport. 

If you’d like to learn more about the RSSB, please find them at www.rssb.co.uk, on Twitter @RSSB_rail, and LinkedIn RSSB.