Retail as we know it has moved into a new paradigm

In the 1950s, Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s largest supermarket chains, was the first retailer to shift paradigms in terms of shopping experience

It offered ‘queue-less shopping’ – a self-service concept that allowed consumers to shop the store by pushing a metal trolley around the aisles rather than waiting in line at a counter to be served.

Today, retailers are becoming increasingly reliant on customer experience innovations such as this to ensure their continuity, as the industry is entering the most transformational period of its experience in response to the current crisis hitting the UK high street.

Already a disruptor with its convenience-focused online retail service, Amazon redoubled its efforts to disrupt brick-and-mortar retail outlets by launching its own physical store, Amazon Go, in 2016. By and large, Amazon Go resembled any other supermarket: products on shelves, arranged by aisles; an assortment of baskets and trolleys for transporting goods; and a bright, fresh, welcoming atmosphere to attract customers. It’s revolutionary move, however, was to use intelligent innovations in IoT technology to provide the most convenient shopping experience yet.

Shopping at its most advanced

Through technology, Amazon has once again revolutionised the shopping experience by removing the human element (in fact, every element) of the payments process. Enabled through the Amazon Go app, consumers simply enter the store, take the products they want and go! No lines, no checkout.

The convenience and ease of payment this will create for time-starved consumers can easily be imagined. Once adopted widely, this new technology-driven, physical store concept will shift retail into a new paradigm – one that transcends the previously innovative concepts of self-service checkouts, hand-held scanners and mobile cashless payments. This is potentially the single biggest transformation to ever happen to retail – even including the online revolution of the 90’s.

The new consumer experiences this concept proposes is hugely exciting – but it is not only consumers that should be excited. Amazon Go is not just a gimmick, it provides a vision of what physical retail outlets will look like in the future, crucially, one in which the power of data can be leveraged. The possibility to collect, analyse, learn from and deploy data relating to customer shopping habits will be critical for any physical retailers’ ability to enhance customer experience and capture market share. In fact, recent Qlik research shows that organisations with a strong corporate Data Literacy – the ability of employees in an organisation to understand and analyse data – have shown up to a 5% increase in enterprise value.

The potential that’s lying in IoT

Amazon Go is predicated on the concept of ‘just walk out.’ Sensors embedded into store shelves automatically detect when products are either taken from or returned to the shelves, tracking every aspect of the customer’s interaction with individual products.

This gives Amazon the opportunity to analyse shopping habits with laser precision right from the shelf edge. The order consumers put items into their shopping bags; the exact time (to the millisecond) items were picked off the shelf; which of their products have an affinity; how long consumers spend in the store; and the footfall journey they took to complete their shopping are all data points that can be collected in IoT-enabled stores such as Amazon Go, enabling Amazon to understand its customers in better ways than ever before.

This is very exciting for the industry for three main reasons. Firstly, there are analytics platforms on the market that enable IoT data to be associated with other traditional data sources, which will help retailers discover new insights into shopping behaviour. Secondly, as the power of data analytics is put into the hands of all employees, those on the front line will be driving IoT innovation through self-service discovery being in the data. And finally, for IoT value to be realised, insights will be shared and acted upon across the whole organisation.

Consider the opportunities IoT technology is already presenting organisations from all industries: in healthcare, wearable devices can track gut activity after surgery; while insurance company Neos is using IoT and connected technology in the home to monitor potential threats in real time. With digital transformation the most prevalent buzzword in just about every industry, it is perhaps not surprising that IoT is becoming a top priority for investment. The data collected by these devices will provide organisations with never-before seen consumer insights, allowing them to tailor and target their business to the exacting needs of their customers.

About the Author

Paul Winsor is Director of Market Development, Retail and Services Industries at Qlik. Qlik helps enterprises around the world move faster, work smarter, and lead the way forward with an end-to-end solution for getting value out of data.