The ongoing relationship between Retail and Technology

How does social media and PR work together, or if at all?
October 5, 2017
The importance of USSD mobile use in Africa
November 3, 2018

Retail and Technology. These two industries are growing alongside one and other in rapid development of how and when the customer receives their product.

Some of the latest movements globally include:

China’s Bingobox yesterday launched its retail technology featuring highly advanced image recognition system that can autodetect products. The rollout has been done with their Malaysian partners to around 500 retailers in the country

Beachwear retailer Seafolly has just released an interactive dressing room mirror. This allows customer to experience virtual shopping in-store with the touch of a button

US Clothing retailer Express is the third retailer to launch a subscription service to rent its clothing. Following in the fit of their competitors Ann Taylor and New York & Co, the companies all use the CaaStle technology and logistics platform to offer subscription rental programs to shoppers. Customers can also buy items after they try them.

The BIXOLON SRP-Q300H claims to be the only device on the market today that provides ease of connectivity and flexibility helping to create the perfect retail mPOS solution.

A new "scan&go" scheme is being rolled out by Carrefour in its Dubai supermarkets in a bid to raise customer service levels. The system allows customers to scan and bag items as they move around the store; providing a seamless shopping experience. Similar to Amazon Go.

"It's really about, in many cases, overlaying the digital over the physical -- trying to digitize more of the physical experience to connect with the customer more effectively," explains Robert Hetu, research director of Gartner's Retail Industry Services team.

A report released by Euromonitor International has predicted that internet retailing will become a larger channel than traditional grocery retail and that this will grow by 73% by 2022.

Beacon Technology for Retail Marketing

First launched around 2015/2016, Beacon technology devices are bluetooth transmitters that broadcast their signal to nearby mobile devices and can interact with them when in close proximity. If you have not already implemented this technology into stores, here are reasons why you should use them:

Advertising - Delivering time and place based messages in a relevant context to drive a more certain sale i.e. a restaurant running a lunch special at lunch time when workers are walking nearby

Data Collection and Analytics - Collecting data about where customers spend most of the time in the store to the ration between first time and return customers adds invaluable insight to a brick-and-mortar store in improving the shopper experience

Personalisation - Special offers, discounts and coupons can be easily served to a customer based on their previous behaviour. This helps with building long term customer loyalty

Affordability - Beacons are considerably cheaper than other forms of devices or technology for in-store application. It is also relatively simple to setup and operate.

Social Media Integration for Retail

Social media should not be the realm of the online shopper only. Retailers need to understand the interweaving nature of online and offline discovery and decision making when making a purchase. Making social media work in the retail environment gives your content a longevity, it would not sometimes enjoy in the social feed.

Inspiring customer / user generated content helps grow the brand where customers are exploring i.e. online. UGC is a driving force for strengthening the brand’s promise in the market by showcasing the use and happiness of customers enjoying products and services. Creating Instagram-worthy moments in the store, and encouraging shoppers to share the experience online with a branded hashtag is another way of leveraging the social media brand building.

Social media monitoring for brand mentions, names associated with the brand, complaints or queries is a goldmine of intelligence to keep the brand top of mind with customers. Replying in a window period that will surprise and delight clients will skyrocket brand confidence and brand integrity.

E-commerce Capability for Retail

Amazon Go operates across four stores - three in Seattle and one in Chicago. The store concept is a fantastic example of the melding between e-commerce ability and retail behaviour.

Watch the video below to see traditional shopping in action with wireless payment system linked to a shopper’s unique digital identity.
While the above example demonstrates Amazon’s status as a trillion dollar company through their forward thinking innovation, retailers in general need not fight against full e-commerce offerings but rather embrace it into their traditional method of selling.

AI Capability for Retail

Remember Sephora’s app which gave the customer the platform to test what the makeup would like on them before they bought it? Using AI to communicate with customers on their direct needs provides insight into: customer likes / dislikes, preferred products, times of shopping, and trends about a product or service a customer would like to know more about.
But, should you move immediately to implementing these technologies into your retail business? The business case has to be justified in introducing a new way for your customer to interact with your product or service. Here are some questions or thoughts to consider that will assist you with planning the way forward:

Determine the right objectives in using AI for the business. Will it help streamline processes that ultimately enable a happier customer and a happier bottomline? Is your customer ready for this type of technology?

Understand the risk. Will the new tech be easy for high adoption or too complicated resulting in low adoption?

Consider 3rd party AI tools rather than building from scratch. AI Developers might be scarce and if secured are a very expensive resource. It is not feasible hiring many of these highly skilled data mappers and having the infrastructure to manage them

Building against the right background. Culture is the heart of a good business in maintaining the people who build it. If your culture endorses and is open to new ways of thinking, the environment is a good space to introduce next level thinking in tech approaches.

Omni-channel approach to Retail

Omni-channel marketing helps provide an end-to-end experience through online and offline customer touch-points. Extending your brick and mortar experience to mobile browsing, e-commerce spaces, social media and retargeting including other digital activities helps to bind a customer’s journey with the brand. Remember too, it’s not about having a presence on every channel. It’s about understanding the needs of your customers. Meet them where they are and make that experience a memorable and easy one to execute.
Want to continue the conversation on retail + technology, and its potential for your business? Leave your questions in the comments below. Or you can email us too on

Ciao for now.