Use tech to blur boundaries in shopping experience, retailers told

BANGKOK (The Nation/ ANN) - Today's retail industry needs to provide stores that merge the physical and digital shopping experiences for customers, said Accenture’s managing director and grocery practice lead for Europe, Africa, and Latin America, Alberto Pozzi.

US-based Accenture is a global professional services company that provides services covering the realms of strategy, consulting, digital, technology and operations.
At a press conference on the first anniversary of the Accenture Customer Information Network in Milan on Tuesday, Pozzi said that the retail industry must overhaul the traditional business model by enhancing customer engagement through the personalisation of services. This could be achieved by promoting an exchange of customer data both outside and in-store for a better shopping experience. Pozzi cited the use of social media and applications that can help retailers meet the different demands of diverse customers.
“The retail industry in this era cannot offer merely a shopping mall or supermarket,” he said. “It has to combine more lifestyle activities to serve the different demands of different customers. It has to have an entertainment space and also provide a seamless convergence of the physical and digital experiences together with assortment optimisation and high-quality fresh and healthy food products to serve the demands of customers.”
Pozzi said that nowadays advances in technology are disrupting all types of industries, including retail. As a result, players in the retail industry must redesign their businesses through a collaboration between the retailers and the brands that creates the best consumer experience. Such collaboration must also strike a balance between the inputs of labour and technology. The key, Pozzi said, is to serve people faster with what they want, when they want it and where they want it.
In line with this trend, Accenture has worked with Italy’s largest supermarket operator, Coop Italia, to reinvent the customer experience in the grocery segment with the opening of its Supermarket of the Future store in Milan this year.
Pozzi said that the company worked with Coop to incorporate technology into the design of the supermarket. He highlighted the store’s favourable location, near a university as well as a gym and a cinema complex in a neighbourhood with a youthful population receptive to new trends. Aside from food, the supermarket also features a restaurant under the operator’s own brand, which Pozzi said was doing well. Instead of a more traditional meat-based delicatessen, the store offers a more modern format with organic produce and items aimed at attracting a younger, more health-conscious clientele.
Pozzi said the supermarket operator would continue to invest in new technology, particularly via mobile. A key feature of the store is its floor layout. Based on research done with a university, the shelf heights are lower than typically seen in other stores, drawing on customer preferences to emerge from the research.
Within the store are scanning devices that can detect body movement when a customer points to a product. With this gesture, the technology can reveal information about that particular product, along with story-type presentations on its origins. Customers also can scan the products to see information such as current promotions, nutritional facts and suggestions for similar products.
Andrea Colombo, vice president of Coop Lombardia, which is the regional entity for the cooperative network, said that after the opening of the redesigned branch in April, the customer traffic has been rising, boosting sales by up to 2 per cent. The store is faring better than the industry overall, which has logged negative growth of 2.07 per cent.
“Our customers enjoy shopping at the store and we have seen more activity and an increase in their spending in the shop,” Colombo said. “Also, the workers have more energy and are enthusiastic about the technology used, making them more inspired to offer better service to the customers.”
Colombo said the technology used in the store can also support the business logistics and supply chain sides of the operation. This boosts operational efficiency, he said. The store chosen for the technology infusion in Milan stocks 4,000 items, Colombo said. 

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