Tech­nol­ogy Is Push­ing Re­tail Bound­aries

THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT TRA­DI­TIONAL BRICKS-AND-MOR­TAR SHOP­PING RE­MAINS THE BACK­BONE OF THE SOUTH AFRICAN RE­TAIL IN­DUS­TRY – FOR NOW – BUT NEW WAYS OF PUR­CHAS­ING ARE FAST BE­COM­ING STAN­DARD PRAC­TICE IN RE­TAIL MAR­KETS AROUND THE WORLD, SAYS MAL­COLM HORNE, CEO

In Flight Magazine - - SMART SHOPPING -

While e-com­merce is well en­trenched in the mar­ket glob­ally, and the use of mo­bile de­vices (m-com­merce) to con­duct re­tail pur­chases is in­creas­ing steadily, a-com­merce – also known as aug­mented com­merce – is hov­er­ing in the wings, ac­cord­ing to Broll’s lat­est re­search pa­per From E- to M- to A-Com­merce:The Im­pact of Tech­nol­ogy on the Re­tail In­dus­try.

THE RISE OF A-COM­MERCE

Aug­mented com­merce re­lates to re­tail that uses aug­mented re­al­ity, en­abling con­sumers to vi­su­alise prod­ucts vir­tu­ally in the real-world en­vi­ron­ment be­fore pur­chas­ing. In gen­eral, South African con­sumers have yet to be­come more fully ac­quainted with these new re­tail prac­tices, but lo­cal re­tail­ers need to keep up to speed if they don’t wish to be caught sleep­ing on the re­tail watch.

New trends and prod­ucts are emerg­ing daily, mak­ing the re­tail en­vi­ron­ment volatile and ex­cit­ing. “Tech­nol­ogy has been the driv­ing force be­hind these rad­i­cal ad­vance­ments,” Horne says. In ad­di­tion, there is enor­mous pres­sure on ma­jor re­tail­ers to ac­quire brands which meet their con­sumers’ ex­pec­ta­tions and de­mands, while in­te­grat­ing new tech­nolo­gies into their day-to-day op­er­a­tions.

MOVE OR LOSE

Are these re­lent­less tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tions driv­ing bricks-and-mor­tar re­tail to­wards an even­tual re­tail apoc­a­lypse? It’s hard to say. Trans­form­ing a tra­di­tional re­tail busi­ness dig­i­tally and tech­no­log­i­cally can be an over­whelm­ing task, but may be a nec­es­sary one for many re­tail­ers as end-users de­mand im­proved, in­stant and sim­pler shop­ping trans­ac­tion ex­pe­ri­ences. In some cases, re­tail­ers have taken the leap of con­vert­ing their“bricks into clicks”by clos­ing un­der-per­form­ing stores and cre­at­ing e-com­merce ful­fil­ment cen­tres to beef up their on­line in­come stream.

The South African on­line shop­ping mar­ket­place is still very much in its in­fancy, but an in­creas­ing num­ber of re­tail­ers are in­cor­po­rat­ing the con­ve­nience con­cept of “click-and-col­lect” into their busi­nesses. Larger na­tional re­tail­ers such as DisChem, Clicks, Pick n Pay, MRP Group and Cot­ton On, amongst oth­ers, now of­fer this con­ve­nient shop­ping ser­vice to as­sist time-strapped con­sumers.

Broll’s re­search pa­per paints a vivid pic­ture of the scope of tech­nolo­gies which could be­come part of the re­tail land­scape in the near fu­ture, and which are al­ready be­ing used in some mar­ket­places.

EM­BRAC­ING THE FU­TURE

Alibaba’s su­per­mar­ket, Hema, for ex­am­ple, has rev­o­lu­tionised mo­bile app shop­ping. Within nine min­utes of re­ceiv­ing an or­der via the Hema app, staff hand-se­lect the spe­cific goods and send a per­son­alised shop­ping bag to the de­liv­ery ware­house, where it is pack­aged for de­liv­ery and de­liv­ered within 30 min­utes in a 3 km ra­dius. Fur­ther­more, their app al­lows shop­pers to pur­chase their goods via fa­cial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy.

Ama­zon Go, a par­tially au­to­mated, cashless and till-free store in Seat­tle, al­lows pa­trons to shop in the store us­ing the Ama­zon Go mo­bile app. Now the same con­cept is geared to shake up gro­cery re­tail in Chicago and San Fran­cisco.

The re­search also high­lights “end­less aisle shop­ping” as fast be­com­ing the lat­est re­tail buzz-phrase. As re­tail­ers look at down­siz­ing their bricks-and-mor­tar port­fo­lios, the con­cept is grow­ing of pro­vid­ing in-store kiosks where

cus­tomers can or­der prod­ucts that are out of stock or not sold in-store. Once or­dered, prod­ucts are dis­patched from off-site ware­houses to cus­tomers’ homes. “Show­room” or “bag-free” stores take this a step fur­ther. A range of prod­uct items is “show­roomed” in-store but not kept in stock. In­stead, they are or­dered on­line and de­liv­ered di­rectly to cus­tomers.

THE TIME OF THE ROBOTS IS HERE

If re­tail­ers are opt­ing for more ware­house ca­pac­ity,im­proved ef­fi­ciency and speed is vi­tal, and this is where robots step to the fore.Var­i­ous mod­els of au­tonomous robots are al­ready in op­er­a­tion, such as Lo­cusBots that work along­side ware­house staff and as­sist in lo­cat­ing and trans­port­ing prod­ucts, while Sure Sort ex­cels at a small-item sort­ing sys­tem.

In China, 7Fresh su­per­mar­ket al­ready of­fers au­tonomous shop­ping carts. These types of carts guide shop­pers to the ex­act aisle and lo­ca­tion of the prod­ucts needed, dis­play ad­ver­tis­ing, and even ac­cept pay­ment. The carts even fol­low cus­tomers to their cars with their pur­chases and are pro­grammed to re­turn to the store com­pletely un­manned.

And if that’s not mind-blow­ing enough, here come au­tonomous self-driv­ing stores.

Toy­ota’s e-Pal­ette, Moby Mart and Robo­mart are some of the au­tonomous self-driv­ing con­ve­nience stores that could po­ten­tially roam the streets 24/7 once they have been fully devel­oped. Es­sen­tially, con­sumers will use a spe­cific app to re­quest a visit from an au­tonomous self-driv­ing store. Once the store ar­rives, the app can open its doors, con­sumers can se­lect the prod­ucts they want and are charged au­to­mat­i­cally upon ex­it­ing the store.

It seems clear from Broll’s re­search that the prac­tice of re­tail is des­tined to be in­creas­ingly dom­i­nated by tech­nol­ogy.“Adapt­ing and keep­ing abreast of this un­cer­tain land­scape is a chal­lenge that re­tail­ers will need to em­brace,” con­cludes Horne.

In China, 7Fresh su­per­mar­ket al­ready of­fers au­tonomous shop­ping carts. These types of carts guide shop­pers to the ex­act aisle and lo­ca­tion of the prod­ucts needed, dis­play ad­ver­tis­ing, and even ac­cept pay­ment.

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