The Near Future of Retail – bridging physical and digital worlds

According to EuroCis 2015 “customers are looking for the ultimate customer journey across all channels”. The 4.0 shopping experience looks “smart, convenient and fully networked” from “at home or at store, off or online”(1). At the end of February 2015 trade visitors from over 60 countries gathered at Düsseldorf in Germany to fetch information from 318 exhibitors on the latest solutions, trends and products in retail information technologies. Myself, I participated the EuroCis event on Wednesday 25th and Thursday 26th. Past year I visited their related event Euroshop 2014, which is also about retail but with a wider theme.

A Tour of EuroCis2015

According to Bell Pottinger Digital (3) trends which will shape our world in 2015 are for example technological such as: Near field communication, Internet of things and beacons, and behavioral such as ‘real-time’, meaning for example real-time marketing. For those who don’t know,’beacons’ are small technical devices designed to “attract attention to a specific location(4)”. Bridging digital and physical in retail context provides a great challenge. I dare to say we have only seen a scratch of a surface on this field. There is room for innovations and innovative thinking. For example beacons can be used in various fields of business and design in a creative way. Let’s team up for futures thinking!

As a setting, the idea of bridging physical and digital worlds, sounds inviting, but according to IBM’s Institute of Business Value survey, explored in news feed of WGSN.com (2) retailers fail to meet customer’s digital expectations. WGSN has interviewed Kali Klena who led the IBM study, according to Klena: “Consumers are having rich digital experiences and their expectations are rising.” Consumers are for example requiring inventory visibility and a personalised communication with a retailer when they are online (48% of the shoppers according to study). 44% of the shoppers wanted on-demand communication while being in the store.

3 service design challenges in retail

1. Understanding omni-channel customer journeys

The raise in technology has lead to more evolved and complex shopping journeys. Experience has become a routine. According to research a majority of companies believe, they are providing a “superior customer service” but only 8% of customers believe those same companies deliver that level of service.”(5) Customer journeys should be mapped and planned in detail considering all relevant touchpoints before, during and after the in-door shopping experience.

Eurocis2015 showcase videos

Technology can enhance the customer journey mapping inside and around the store. 1. Customers can be counted and tracked with location based analytics from the moment they enter a store, through out their journey, until they leave the store. 2. Information can be gathered from following customer behaviors: How many of the people who walk by the store, actually enter? How people are using the retail space? How long do they stay in store? Where are people going within the store? When combined, technology and service design methods can lead to a more accurate and truthful customer journey maps, discreet in-store technologies can also facilitate the customer journeys.

The raise of shoppertainment

Shoppertainment in short, means a unique combination of shopping and experience. The boundaries of theme park, museums and shopping are merging. According to Ann De Kelver, the author of the book: Experience Shopping. Where, why and how people shop all over the world: “the smart consumer wants to be inspired, challenged, stimulated, amazed and involved “, “He doesn’t have to go to the destination that is closest to home” and “the consumer must be followed to wherever he wants to go” (6) Retailers no longer manage with function only based services, the customers should be emotionally guided through the store. “the need and desire are becoming one” (6) Knowing the customers lifestyle is prominent.

Eurocis2015 showcase videos

The role of the brand in co-created shopping experience

Co-creation has become a norm. Already in 2007 Nike iD sportsmen could create their own sports shoes via special interface and the platform brought in over $100 million in revenue for the fiscal year of 2009 (7) in 2010 Huffington Post announced that co-creation is winning because 1. Consumers get exactly want they want, on-demand and made-to-order, 2. Co-creation is fun and platforms are making it easy, 3. Co-creation offers more engaging shopping experience and 4. It resolves the “inefficiencies in mass-production”.

Nowadays there are many services based on co-creation, available to everyone. Just to mention a few, people can create and sell their own books and magazines in Blurb.com, and upload t-shirt designs to threatless.com. When everybody becomes a designer, what is the role of retail shop and how can they differ from others. When brand becomes a facilitator, it has to look for competitive advantages in service business.

James Thomlinson, the partner and a managing director of Bell Pottinger digital says:“Every year new hardware and software appears, but the most successful brands in 2015 will be those that harness new technology to deliver a single experience to consumers wherever they are in their journey”(3). This experience is possible to create, when the service design, design and technology meet and are united.

Refences

(1) Eurocis tradefair website, accessed 8.3.2015 at 20.40
http://eurocis-tradefair.com

(2) Retailers fail to meet consumer digital commerce expectations – IBM survey (reading requires a subscription) accessed: 13.3.2015 at 10:51 http://www.wgsn.com/news/?p=1154506

(3) Bell Pottinger: 15 digital trends for 2015, accessed 13.3.2015 at 11:38
http://www.bellpottinger.com/newsroom/2014/12/15-digital-trends-for-2015

(4) Beacon – Wikipedia accessed 13.3.2015
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beacon

(5) ShopperTrak to demonstrate latest in Location Based Analytics innovation at EuroCIS 2015 (adventorial) accessed: 13.3.2015 at 12:50 http://www.eurocis-tradefair.com/cipp/md_eurocis/custom/pub/content,oid,11268/lang,2/ticket,g_u_e_s_t/~/ShopperTrak_to_demonstrate_
latest_in_Location_Based_Analytics_innovation_at_EuroCis_2015.html

(6) Ann De Kelver, Experience Shopping – Where, why and how people shop all over the world.

(7) Huffington Post Business, accessed 13.3.2015 at 13:32
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danny-wong/nikeid-makes-100m-co-crea_b_652214.html

Written by Annina Antinranta – art director and musician/producer based in Helsinki, Finland and Laurea SID Student 2013, as part of an assignment for the course “Current Topics in Service Design”

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