Retail technology: enhancing experience

Across the globe, we are seeing the growing trend of integrating technology into the service offering within shopping malls, stores and casual dining destinations.  The debate at Design Clarity is whether the technology is actually benefiting the customer journey or not. We see best practice and questionable practice from Australia to the UK, here are some examples.

In Australia, technology is finding its place amongst high street banks and airports. Westpac’s new store concept in Melbourne is 24/7 as they’ve addressed the need to cater for a ‘Nighttime Economy’. Both the brand and store reflect how the bank is adapting to today’s millennial generation. Design Clarity worked with Westpac on the new concept, with store features including a destination café island, meeting rooms, self-service area, iPad tables and a 24/7 lobby. See images to the side and in our case study.

In Sydney Airport, our friends at Vodafone are installing pop-up kiosks, complete with live devices for passersby to use and interact with. This will create pause points for the mass market to engage with Vodafone and help the brand connect with a younger and wider audience.

Just opened; the new Quiksilver Boardriders concept store in Coolangatta, coincidentally timed in the with the international Quiksilver Pro surf competition! There’s an amazing moving surfboard carousel on the facade to draw all the customers in. Once inside, there’s a second carousel moving surfboards constantly overhead and down the length of the retail space. Customers can select their board of choice via a large touchscreen embedded within an old-style drafting table. The perfect meeting of hi-tech and low-tech encourages connection with their brand DNA.

In the UK, it’s a slightly different picture; we have a mixture of stores throughout London making their brands accessible via the means of technology. Touchscreen tables show product ranges for homeware retailers, we have tablets in fashion stores and large digital screens are used to show collections and also connect with social media feeds.

We also have iPads being used to measure childrens feet in Clarks shoes and last year Argos replaced their catalogues with tablets. Burberry famously opened their technology-enhanced flagship in 2013, leading the way for designer fashion houses. Their store features a 22ft-high screen, 500 hidden speakers and a hydraulic stage. It also showcases RFID microchips – radio-frequency identification – in some of its clothes.

Meadowhall recently got tech-savvy and used push notifications to give away voucher codes – this is the first UK shopping centre to implement such a scheme and we’re sure this will catch on fast.

The other means of technology useful to customers is virtual mirrors- so you can see the jeans on your body without trying them on. Naturally, this has been in Japan for years, John Lewis tried it out in 2012, and now Panasonic has developed technology to try on makeup without applying- genius!

In regard to hospitality- they seem a little slower off the mark. Currently, iPads are being used as till-points in all the cool cafes in Oz and Britain, and Starbucks are trialling the use of charge pads for customers’ phones as well as their wifi.

Therefore, we looked to the app world in search for innovation and found Skipapp! This is a new App to the Aussie market so you can pre-order your morning coffee and jump the queue. We love this idea! Tech is also being used by a few restaurant companies to get customers to pay their restaurant bill -incase you can get hold of your waiter. In the US, there’s an app where you can pick the music for the restaurant – that’s a great idea but what if it’s terrible?

What else can tech be useful for in restaurants? Could we order our deserts via an app so the double portion of chocolate pudding was kept secret?!