5 digital high street retail innovations you should know about

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5 digital high street retail innovations you should know about

While we help Clas Ohlson to launch new digital products and out of store services as part of their digital future, other high street retailers are exploring different avenues. We take a closer look at some of the exciting customer-centric digital innovations happening in stores.

The supermarket

In Lewington, New York, at Wallmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab, the company is testing what could be game-changing technology for the supermarket industry. This isn’t a hidden away project however, the retail lab is a 4,500 sqm supermarket, open daily to customers, with over 30,000 products.

So, what’s different? Well, it’s the use of AI in the store. Cameras in the ceiling and instore sensors are constantly scanning the shelves. These notify staff when shelves need filling or when consumables, such as meat products, are reaching their sell-by-date. In total, 1.6 terabytes of data is processed every second. 

Wallmart are completely transparent about what they are doing in the store and it’s obvious to anybody who shops there that tech is central to the shopping experience. This includes the onsite glass-encased data centers that are bathed in a deep blue light, an interactive wall and educational kiosks dotted throughout the store.

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The online retailer

When it comes to digital in retail, few can compete with Amazon, but when they take to the high street things become really interesting. Amazon Go is the companies cashier-less venture where a combination of technologies including computer vision and geofencing are in use. Products picked from shelves are added to customers’ virtual shopping carts in an app and charged to their accounts when they leave the store through turnstiles. 

Most recently, Amazon introduced cash payments at its newly opened store in downtown New York. Rather than reverting to using cashiers, a shop employee with a mobile device helps people check out and pay with coins or paper notes.

According to Bloomberg, Amazon is considering opening as many as 3,000 AmazonGo stores by 2021. Today, there are just ten. 

Take a look at Kaffefamiljen.se, the online store we built for coffee lovers around Sweden. You can get the perfect coffee blend to suit your taste and brewing preference, delivered directly to your home. You can even loan a brewer if you want to try a new way of preparing coffee. 

The confectioner

US confectioner Lolli and Pops is using a host of digital innovations to provide better customer services. A service from Retail Next, tracks customer paths through the confectionery stores so they can identify which of their sweets attract and hold customers attention. It can also be used to plan which candy should be placed where and better plan stock levels.

The company also uses facial recognition software. Customers that agree to it, share their taste preferences and any allergies with the company. When they then walk into a store, a staff member can see this information in an app and use it to make sweet suggestions. AI-enhanced analytics also make sweet recommendations in the app.

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The clothes store

Global fashion retailer Zara has introduced showrooming at its concept store in London. Customers can try on clothing in fitting rooms and then order them directly from their phones. RFID tag technology also means a customer can scan a clothing tag and receive suggestions of other clothes that can be paired with it. 

The company has also introduced augmented reality (AR) into its app, so when you hold a camera up to a mannequin or a certain collection in a store, you can see a model moving on the screen wearing the clothes in question. They can then be ordered with a single tap on the phone. 

Instore payment is also much faster, as customers can use self-service checkouts. You don’t even have to scan barcodes, you just hold up your basket of clothes, and the system calculates the cost.

We spend a lot of time experimenting with new technologies here at Daresay. One of them was smart clothing. Follow us on Instagram to read about this and other innovations we’re exploring.   

The optician 

Anybody who has bought new glasses recently knows that choosing the right pair can take time. To simplify this process, Specsavers has introduced its Frame Styler service in stores in the UK and Ireland. This uses AI to recommend glasses for customers from 1200 stock frames.  

A 3D scan is taken of a customer’s face and 12 frames are suggested that would suit them based on face shape, gender, age and the most popular frames purchased by similar customers within the previous month. If the person is an existing customer, the algorithm also uses previous frame purchases to recommend new frames.   

Customers can then see what their face would look like with the different glasses on from multiple angles by simply swiping through them on an instore tablet. The suggested glasses are categorised from discreet to statement frames to help the person decide the type of look they would like to have.  

Our face recognition project with Bisnode, where we built a magic mirror, made a big impact on everybody that came into contact with it. 

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The flipside – could digital be the saviour of vacant retail space 

This is what the digital leaders in retail are doing, but what about the other companies. Well, there is room for them, but it’s a challenging environment to operate in. You have to offer something unique or have a loyal customer base. And While niche artisan shops are thriving, other stores are suffering – by mid April 2019 there were 6,000 announced store closures in the US alone, which is more than the total number of closures in 2018. The result of this is that there is a lot of empty retail space (there have been 2,641 store openings in 2019 and there were 3,239 in 2018). This has caused a rethink for commercial real estate owners as they look to fill space. 

One trend in the US is the conversion of malls to office space. Large empty units and entire floors are being converted into offices. Many malls offer good access to cities and highways, have large carparks, and lots of amenities onsite – which is great for office workers. Mall stores and restaurants also benefit from having many more potential customers on site – it’s a win-win situation.   

But who is that is moving into these premises? According to the New York Times there are a lot of coworking space providers opening offices in malls – and the typical person sitting in coworking space has a digital-related occupation. In fact, one mall in Los Angeles is redeveloping 584,000-square-foot for a Google complex.

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