“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Does this adage apply to the high street? Perhaps a lack of innovation is the reason why high street retailers have struggled to compete with online only retailers?
As far as I can recall, there have been few significant innovations on the high street, which have directly improved the customer shopping experience. In fact, only two spring to mind; one is contactless payments; the other is the self-service checkout (and it is questionable whether the latter really was for the benefit of the customer). If there has been anything else, I must have missed it!
If I am to be enticed back to the high street, I want to see the innovative use of technology to make my shopping experience easier, more flexible and more enjoyable.
I walk into a store during a quiet part of the day. I am greeted by a member of staff who asks me what I'm looking for. I am taken to the relevant department/shelf/rail and my questions about the product and its availability are handled using the staff’s own knowledge and a tablet. I’m in a rush, so the member of staff offers to take my contactless payment straightaway and then asks if I want to take the product with me or if I’d like it to be sent to my address free of charge overnight. I take it with me.
The next store I visit is particularly busy, so I take out my smartphone and connect to the free in-store Wi-Fi. This opens a browser on my device allowing me to search for products. I am presented with a map of the store, directions to find my products and any special offers or complementary products. I am (deliberately) taken on a route through the store past other products I might be interested in and I am able to scan QR tags to get product information and stock availability. I add these products to both my physical and virtual shopping baskets. When I get to the products I came in for and make my choice, I add those to my physical and virtual shopping baskets also. I complete the purchases on my smartphone, go to a checkout, where a QR code generated on my smartphone is scanned by staff who confirm a match between what items I have paid for and the items in my physical basket. Items are packed and off I go. If any items were not available in my colour/size or if I decide I don’t want to queue or carry my items home, I have a simple option to request free of charge next day delivery.
The technology to do this exists; there are already indoor GPS systems, stock management systems, delivery and fulfilment software, contactless payment solutions, and so on, so why has it not been done? Too costly? Fear of change? Something else? Whatever the reasons, I wonder if the high street, as we know it today, will still be here without radical and customer-focused innovation.
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