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HomeNEWSTechnology advances draw in reluctant shoppers

Technology advances draw in reluctant shoppers

In this environment of rapid change, it’s almost easier to be a new retailer than one with a legacy which needs to be transformed, says Microsoft retail industry lead Marcy Larsen. She spoke at Microsoft’s ‘Retail in the digital age’ talk at SkyCity.

Larsen says she’s noticed a shift in the target audience of retail innovations. Previous innovations were directed at established shoppers – “People like me, who like to shop and are good at it,” – but the new focus on convenience and ease is opening up a new market.

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“These are people who don’t like to shop and didn’t even know they wanted to buy that.”

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Larsen predicts an “invisible revolution” as technology moves beyond screens into augmented reality. Speech-recognition technology and AI will be key to this. According to Microsoft’s predictions, augmented reality will be a $120 billion industry by 2020.

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She says that retailers seeking to incorporate this kind of cutting-edge technology in their offering need to involve more than just the IT team in its implementation, recommending a customer experience team also be involved: “Technology investments fail without that unified team.”

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“It’s not just about technology for technology’s sake anymore. It’s customer-centric everything.”

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Speaking about how Microsoft runs its retail operations, Larsen says it prizes customer-centricity. An empowered workforce and a modern store are also key.

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Among the future developments Larsen flagged is an increase in the presence of AI in retail. She spoke of a robot named Pepper used by Japanese bank SoftBank which can access customers’ records using facial recognition technology: “You yourself are your loyalty card.”

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Larsen also predicted an increase in focus on customer experience, saying stores will become less about conversion and more about “getting a customer for life”. Both bricks and mortar and ecommerce will be necessary for this.

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She listed a number of convenience-focused start-ups already operating:

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  • Curbside, which picks up purchases from the retailer and delivers them to the customer in their car.
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  • Luxe, which will park the customer’s car anywhere.
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  • Stitch Fix, which uses data science to provide ‘personal styling’ services.
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AI will also become more important in the form of bots and digital assistants like Microsoft’s Cortana, Larsen says.

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Pre-2020

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Post-2020

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Information scarce

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Information abundant

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Command and control

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Stores have a voice

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Stores

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Clubs

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Individual productivity

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Collaborate to win

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Efficiency of process

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Experiment, learn and respond

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Data insights

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Data as a unique asset

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