Network needs in the store of the future

Digital theatre and the store of the future

Visit any store today, and the odds are that technology will play a part in persuading you to part with your money.

In its more advanced forms, such as VR and interactive touchpoints, Forrester describes what’s taking place in the sector as ‘digital retail theatre’, a combination of established entertainment practices and new technologies that are taking the shopping experience to the next level.

Retail technology is quickly becoming smarter and more prolific. Today’s shopper wants to be engaged more closely, and to have their online habits, personal preferences and loyalty recognised and addressed – and technology is driving this revolution in customer service.

Dressed to thrill

The fashion sector is high on the bill when it comes to delivering a seamless retail journey. Womenswear specialist Karen Millen gives its staff a real-time view of inventory via mobile tablets so they can upsell to and guide shoppers through the ranges, whether they’re in stock or not. Bluetooth scanning allows staff to check deliveries in, process store transfers, and handle administrative tasks; while the customer experiences a more helpful store associate, with a firm grasp on stock availability.

Few shoppers would dispute these benefits; but we conducted a survey of 1,000 UK consumers, and found that receptiveness to new technologies goes much further. Nearly three quarters (73%) of us are keen to see digital advertising screens employed in store, and retailers such as Ted Baker have taken note of this appetite to bolster their online campaigns. For its ‘Keeping up with the Bakers’ campaign, the retailer’s interactive window displays generated a personalised photo for passers-by who touched its screens.

Meanwhile, Superdry introduced an interactive smart mirror to its flagship store in Berlin, which encourages shoppers to digitally ‘try on’ clothes; items of apparel are mapped to their reflection by body-tracking technology, giving users an idea of how they look, fit and move. The mirror also provides numerous colour options and design details, and asks customers to share their experiences and preferences via social media; which in turn helps Superdry tailor its upcoming collections.

Our survey revealed that two-thirds (67%) of us would enjoy using interactive mirrors, while an overwhelming 84% are happy to use digital shelf-edge labels that offer detailed product information. Looking further into the future, 57% of us are comfortable with the concept of robot assistants. Clearly, shoppers want retail to be more transparent and engaging, so we’re very likely to see more widespread applications of ‘digital retail theatre’.

The show must go on

If the shop floor is the retail theatre’s front of house, it’s concerning that many businesses are not taking their backstage props as seriously. Burgeoning in-store technology is placing the data networks behind under increasing pressure; couple this with the growth of activity taking place through shoppers’ own smartphones and wearables, and you have a recipe for disaster, as retail establishments begin to overreach their technological capabilities.

As this demand for technology grows, so too does the consumer’s desire for efficient, uninterrupted communication between in-store devices, their own, and the internet. At the same time, retailers are being warned to keep the data that’s relayed in their stores safe, or face severe penalties.

Can you honestly say that your stage is set for the future of retail?

Vodat International provides expert managed network services to a wide range of UK retailers; read our new miniguide to discover why today’s increasing technological pressures means you should join them.

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