In the May 2017 Consumer Trends report, our team looks at how retailers of consumer products can use technology to create competitive advantage. In the first of three blogs on the key findings of the report, we consider the importance of technology in retailing.
With online competition from the likes of Amazon as relentless as ever, retailers are realising that changes in the way consumers shop mean they need to improve how they advertise, market and sell their products in order to compete.
Omni-channel retailing, which includes the use of smartphone and tablet apps, interactive in-store catalogues and online coupons, is increasingly becoming the strategy of choice for retailers as it enhances the consumer experience through seamless integration of technology with a traditional format store.
Virtual fitting rooms are an example of technology facilitating omni-channel retailing to engage consumers, assist the buying journey and make it easier to buy clothes on-line.
Clothing retailer Gap has announced that it will be launching its ‘DressingRoom by Gap’ app, which will allow consumers to virtually see what clothes look like in different sizes on a mannequin of their choice.
The ‘Zeekit’ app takes it a step further by teaming up with top fashion designers featured in New York Fashion Week. The app enables users to upload a full body image of themselves and select clothes to try on.
But it’s not just clothing retailers getting in on the technology boom; the cosmetics sector is also embracing the use of new tech in the buying process.
At its store in Westfield London, Charlotte Tilbury has created a ‘Magic Mirror’ that allows shoppers to virtually try before they buy make-up by placing digital images over their reflection, thus removing the messy process of physically trying lots of different colours.
In the UK, traditional large format stores, such as those selling furniture and electrical/white goods, are also changing in order to create more of a personal connection with consumers.
Carpetright, DFS and IKEA have all opened smaller High Street stores, which stock a carefully selected collection of products and utilise technology to allow consumers to access their full range of stock via an in-store tablet device.
This mix of old and new creates a competitive advantage. While the digital element creates a different customer experience to their usual offering, the location brings the retailer closer to the consumer.
B&Q has also announced that it is looking to open smaller stores, and we have seen grocery retailers cutting back on their “big sheds” and pushing smaller format stores, such as Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local.
The way consumers shop is altering with developments in technology and using a single platform offering is becoming much more of a challenge. In this environment, an omni-channel buying experience will enable retailers to remain competitive and maximise their returns.