Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Instore digital – the saviour of our high streets??

Instore digital – the saviour of our high streets??

Unless you have been residing under a very large rock for the last six months, you will be aware that one of the latest buzzes around retail right now is the fusion of high street retail with digital technologies

For some, online and offline retail are still very much separate entities, which compete with one another, and have little in common apart from the fact that they are vehicles for sales, however the boundaries between on and offline retail are rapidly beginning to become less distinct.

The realisation is that each domain has fundamental failings (convenience, shopability,experience) that are insurmountable with marketing or design, and so what we are starting to see is that the 'offline' shopping experience increasingly being digitised, and, to a much lesser extent online is adopting more of the offline ways.

“We could ultimately be on the way to shops that are populated with holographic stock”

So where does this all end? Well that's just the thing it doesn’t. As technology marches on, and the most 'way out' and exotic technologies become viable from a commercial perspective, we could ultimately be on the way to shops that are populated with holographic stock, with the trying on of clothes becoming a thing of the past, as technology will be able to scan your dimensions, and choose the size for you on the fly.

Sounds a bit like science fiction to you? Well these technologies are all about – though stupidly expensive / impractical at present, and have not been brought together in a cohesive retail centric way. Pretty soon we will see this type of thing rolled out.

The technology of today however has to be mobile hand held devices.

As with a lot of newer technologies the potential for this technology is lagging behind our own imaginations – currently retailers are not really facing up to the potential for customer mobile use. A good example of this reluctance to embrace mobile is the statistic that 60% of the UK's top 100 retailers don't have a mobile optimised web site!

“60% of the UK's top 100 retailers don't have a mobile optimised web site”

The possibilities?

Imagine being able to communicate with a customer as soon as they enter the store, telling them what is on offer that day, perhaps giving them the ability to navigate to these offers?

This data could be 'pushed' to hand held devices quite easily with existing technology, 'in-door GPS' has already been trialled utilising multiple calibrated WiFi transmitters.

As with all technologies, the direction that innovations take are completely dependant on the potential to monetise, as yet full proof strategies to derive serious extra revenue from these technologies haven’t really been executed in an optimised fashion – though it will and fast.

A great number of retailers have strategies in place to introduce in store digital projects during the first half of 2013 – and by the end of the year, it will be commonplace to see handheld devices augmenting the high street retail experience.

So – to address the title, is this new wave the saviour of our high streets? Well yes and no.

The cost of technology does mean that smaller operators are not going to able to benefit from this tech. However plans are afoot to setup and independent basic system that any retailer could sign up for, though with less functionality than the bespoke systems the big retailers can afford.

The bottom line here is that to coin a phrase 'every little helps'................but the high street is going to need more than an app or two to save it, what interests me is when the really serious technology hits in a year or two - full virtual reality shopping anyone?

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