It’s Boxing Day – The sales start today! As part of our series of articles looking forward to 2018 and beyond, Gavin Wheeldon, CEO of Purple, takes a look at how technology will shape the future of retail. “There is no such thing as one kind of retail space, but as high streets battle to survive, embracing technology could be the only way to thrive.”

There’s no getting away from it. Technology rules the waves and this is no more evident than in the retail sector. Subsequently, customers are leading the charge. Expecting to get the best deals, the best service and the quickest routes to purchase.

A recent State of Bricks and Mortar survey revealed that 55% of people surveyed said they looked at a mobile device whilst shopping. In China, it’s 92% of the population. 83% of Americans use them to compare prices, 78% search for store discounts and 67% of younger shoppers want redeemable offers straight to their phone.

Retailers come in different shapes and sizes so their solutions are based upon how they expect their customers to behave once in store.

With these figures in mind retailers are becoming blatantly aware of how important it is that they address the consumer’s needs. And those needs are to be tech-based. A one-size-fits-all approach, however, does not work across the sector. Retailers come in different shapes and sizes so their solutions are based upon how they expect their customers to behave once in store.

Convenience stores and spaces like supermarkets will expect their customers to move in and out of the shop quicker. Time is now often seen as the number one asset, and in this respect, the easier and quicker the process is, the better the customer experience. Dwell time may not be as important so the speed of payment and transition will be key to their success. Think about self-checkout, click and collect as well as same day delivery. Amazon Go is at the forefront, with no cashiers or payments, the customer walks in, grabs what they want and walks out. It’s a system also being trialled by supermarket giant, Sainsbury’s within their Euston store. Customers were offered the opportunity to have a ‘checkout free experience’, using an app to purchase their products without having to queue to finalise the process. Whether this is rolled out across all stores is yet to be decided, but if one supermarket is offering its customers the opportunity, others will be sure to follow.

On the other side of the coin, luxury brands and well-known department stores will need their customers to visit them with the intention of lingering. These kinds of retailers need to have a brand that resonates in all they do, including WiFi. Every opportunity to increase dwell and frequency needs to be taken and data capture and intelligent automated marketing through WiFi is a prime example of how this can be achieved. The longer someone spends on a shop the more chance the retailer has of them making a purchase, this is why it’s crucial.

Across the board, traditional retailers are having to think about transitioning their customers from in-store to onlineClick To Tweet

Across the board, traditional retailers are having to think about transitioning their customers from in-store to online. This poses a huge challenge. Retailers have tried many ways of gathering information (emailing receipts), however, this often leaves a bad customer experience and isn’t reliable. Purple allows customer data to be captured in a low friction manner for customers, giving brilliant WiFi in return for some data. A well-known luxury department store use Purple to redirect customers towards key objectives post authentication, including downloading the app and shopping online.

Ted Baker recently announced a 4.5% sales growth in-store and 30.5% increase online. In a time when other retailers are noticing severe slumps, it’s interesting to note the fashion brand has been offering customers the chance of ordering products online, whilst in store. It allows employees to offer a more personalised shopping experience with customers, giving them access to Ted Baker’s whole product range in addition to what is available in store. This service is currently being trialled but is being rolled out across the country soon, the PayPal Here app gives shoppers quick and easy access to the online environment.

The fashion brand is actually thriving in a tough market and has certainly embraced a more holistic approach towards shopping which is definitely the way forward.

Over time physical spaces will become more visible. In the vast majority of cases, most retailers have very little to no information on who is visiting (name/contact data/age/gender/customer history), how long they dwell, how frequently, and as such, they’re missing out on the huge opportunity this data could present. Another luxury department store collected over 200,000 lines of detailed CRM data in first 3-months of launching with Purple. This data also gives great opportunities to review how different stores are performing past the basic Point of Sale data. The impact of understanding how different shop fronts and store interiors, attract and retain visitors can be vital in ensuring the estate is performing at its best.

Finally, we can’t get away from millennials. They will drive the retail world forward. We are a ‘mobile’ first, not ‘digital’ first culture now. Millennials demand to buy products quickly and efficiently. They are also shaping how some retailers do business. There is a retailer who has a gaming area on its sales floor, hoping those that come in to play will also purchase. A luxury retailer in America offers free spa treatments to some of its high-end customers, which can be done within the shop.

As a new generation begins to demonstrate its shopping potential, retailers will have to constantly evolve in order to survive and thrive. The future is bright with the right technology choices, for both stores and customers. It can be a win-win situation.