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Changing retail: technology and the customer experience
Retail industry careers advice and insight from Reed Retail
With the rise of experience stores and pop-up shops in the UK, it's clear the retail landscape is changing. Technology presents more and more opportunities for retailers to improve the customer experience, but what impact will this have on retail jobs?
The continued increase in online shopping is putting pressure on many high street brands to attract more shoppers through their doors. Many brands are responding to this pressure by creating more personalised in-store customer experiences that rival those available online, to appeal to tech-savvy shoppers and make in-store shopping a more entertaining activity for all demographics.
The rise of experience stores
Many of the leading technology brands are designing experience stores to showcase their products to customers. Samsung opened their flagship store in Singapore in June, with themed zones for different levels of user interaction. The store has an app-operated coffee bar where customers can create a bespoke cup of coffee and a wall projecting customer movements. This all forms part of a tech-driven user experience.
Leading UK brands are also using technology to create a personalised in-store user experience. Nails Inc at Harvey Nichols enables customers to design personalised nail polish and visualise how different nail polishes would look. Homebase now offers a ‘Create Your Own Look' tool, enabling customers to upload images of their rooms and see which paints, wallpapers, flooring and tiles look best in their home.
Other brands like John Lewis are experimenting by giving iPads to Sales Assistants to improve in-store customer service, providing access to the online shop to check product availability and find delivery dates that suit them. Marks & Spencer have launched a mobile app with a QR code reader to give customers additional information from product reviews to menu suggestions via in-store signage.
How will retail innovation impact roles?
The rise of experience stores and a bespoke customer service experience will undoubtedly affect jobs within the industry. The use of technology such as iPads and QR codes within stores will lead to more rigorous recruiting and training of employees by Store and HR Managers, to ensure they are confident using the technology with customers.
The success of retail innovation for brands will depend on the use of data to gain insight into the customer experience and its fit with the customers' needs. This will create a greater need for data analysts and marketers with data analysis skills. Merchandisers and Buyers may also need to work more closely with Marketers, Space Planners and Experience Designers to improve the user experience of their products in the future.
It's a challenging time to be in retail but it's also full of opportunities. Retail professionals with an interest in technology and innovation will undoubtedly be more successful as they have more value to offer brands in the long-term.
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