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The retail store - redefined

New technology often seems to receive a lot of hype in the early years before it finally “arrives” and changes the world in ways that most people never imagined. Examples of technologies that have transformed retail business in the last 40 years are the barcode, EFTPOS and online shopping.

It is not uncommon for these revolutionary changes to be dismissed as irrelevant novelties when they first appear. Part of the reason for this is that the early versions of many new inventions are difficult to use and require a lot of effort on the part of the early adopters.

We all have difficulty envisaging the way things will be done in the future. Thomas Watson, the head of IBM, in 1943 famously predicted that there would be a worldwide market for five computers.

Here are a number of new, early technologies being trialed in retail which could be game-changers for the way stores operate.

  1. Beacons

  2. Facial recognition

  3. Robot assistants

  4. Smart mirrors

  5. Auto checkout

While you might doubt that they will ever affect your store, you should watch the quick video examples here:

If you’re like me – you will probably think that these technologies aren’t applicable or realistic when you first see them – but I’ve been watching all of these for some time, and the real-life examples are growing – with real benefits to support them.

While your corner store won’t be able to offer the Amazon-style convenience of auto-checkout any time soon – there is absolutely no doubt that the inconvenience of waiting for the manual checkout and payment system will become a thing of the past within the next 10 years. And when this change occurs it will be vitally important that you are part of this new way of transacting.

Just think about the way Uber has decimated the taxi industry. This industry had remained much the same for decades, and suddenly, with the convenience of app-based ordering and automated payment, the drivers for traditional taxi companies are having to switch to driving for Uber in their “spare” time in order to get enough customers to earn a living.

There are three key strategies for bricks and mortar businesses to survive:

  1. Convenience

  2. Low Price

  3. Instore experience

It is now considered necessary for a store to be superior in two of these areas to survive.

The future of your physical retail store (as opposed to mail order or online shopping) will depend on your ability to harness new technologies to improve the instore experience and convenience.

Retailers in New Zealand have always been relatively hi-tech compared with other countries. The next wave of innovations is already redefining retail – are you ready?


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