Trends to 2020

A retail revolution

Dissolving the barrier between the physical and digital worlds

Growing up in Belfast in the 1960s I remember milkmen, bread vans, fishmongers and a butcher all delivering fresh produce to our home.  Over the next 40 years these tradesmen virtually disappeared as the supermarket chains developed.  But I believe we are in the midst of a retail revolution that will bring back much of this convenience and personalisation.

Two elements will make this work. First, making ordering and getting the goods to your home fun and easy. Secondly, dissolving the barrier between the physical and digital worlds.

Tesco recently won an innovation award for its Korean subsidiary. In some underground stations in Seoul life-sized posters of Tesco’s shopping aisles have been put up along the platforms. Commuters can walk up and down the posters shopping using their smartphones to read the QR codes on the posters. Similar posters were recently put up at Gatwick airport. A great and fun use of dead time!

In the UK, John Lewis offers a “click by 7pm, collect next day from 2pm” service.  Indeed all the major supermarkets offer a delivery service which strangely starts to feel like Belfast back in the 1960s! Tesco recently announced that it was expanding the number of its so called “dark” stores, which are designed simply to fulfil online orders from customers in the area.

However making the online experience richer may be the next step. Tesco is looking to launch a 3D experience for home shopping. Imagine flying through a supermarket and being able to move up and down the aisles looking at different types of goods … without leaving your living room.  

Clothes shopping is also moving with the times. Various start-ups are looking to use clever technology to make the shopping experience better both for the customer and for the shop.  

Von Bismark (from Ireland!) is using the Xbox Kinect to allow shoppers to look at themselves on a screen and then see how virtual clothes and different accessories suit them. For the right age group, it is fun and natural. Indeed if they like the look the shopper can post the photograph on Facebook. The shop benefits because it is able to analyse the data and understand what colours and garments suit different demographic groups.

Verisize from Spain makes it easier for customers to order the right size. The customers enter their size, weight, and age and body type. The shop has a better chance of sending out a garment which fits. Ultimately this means fewer returns and higher profits. Of course it relies on the customer being honest!

By 2020 most of us will have accurate body scans stored online and it will be as easy to order uniquely styled clothes as it is to buy a book from Amazon today. Shopping at home will be immersive and some people will never need to walk into a shop.  

As always in this column, I ask a simple question. Who in your organisation is responsible for scanning how advances in technology, perhaps driven by innovative start-ups, impact your industry?

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Tags: belfast, gatwick, john lewis, leadership, qr code, retail, revolution, tesco

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Adam Bates is a KPMG partner responsible for the risk management practice. He has also recently taken on responsibility for driving innovation, creativity and futurist thinking at KPMG.

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