Online shopping has become the norm for a lot of U.K. consumers with 65 percent of connected users regularly buying goods on the Internet. Last week saw the 20th anniversary of the first ever online purchase, thought to be Sting’s album “Ten Summoner’s Tales”. While e-commerce sales continue to increase as they will reach 217 billion pounds in Britain in 2016, they will only account for about 5 percent of total retail sales.

It turns out that people still like shopping in bricks and mortar retail stores. They like to touch and see products in real life before committing to purchase. Some just enjoy browsing in shops ( Window shopping, ask any husband ). After more than a decade of web commerce, consumers have become technically savvy, price conscious and demanding. They want to shop at in-store while at the same time experiencing the advantages of shopping online such as interactive apps, product customization, immediate access to previews and information, transparent price comparison and all of the advances that they have grown fond of online.

In this light, retailers have also become more advanced with in-store retail technology. This is a new concept that retailers are embracing in order to bridge the gap between offline and online. This is done by adopting innovative technology as a core strategy to stay alive in the tough economic market.

Types of In-Store Retail Technology

Virtual Changing Rooms

John Lewis, Topshop and other retailers are trying out virtual mirrors at their flagship stores. This unique technology utilizes cameras that capture moving images of a customer that are then superimposed with clothing over the on-screen image. A customer can try on clothing without the need to get undressed.

Mark & Spencer have also successfully deployed a virtual makeover counter. A customer identifies a range or style of products that they like, and the virtual mirror suggests other complimentary goods the person may want to purchase.

What is even better is that images can also be shared through email or social media. A number of U.K. retailers have also enabled the mirrors to double as a kiosk. This enables clients to check the availability of stock that they want to purchase and facilitate orders.

Tracking Customers

Another area where retail technology has been used is in tracking client traffic. Brick-and-mortar retail outlets have been at a disadvantage in the information that they collect on consumers when compared to e-commerce operators. In order to tackle this problem, large retailers have deployed innovative technologies in their physical locations.

One such technology known as tracking utilizes smartphone signals to track a customer as they move through a shop. Utilizing this technology enables retailers to count the number of people that enter their store. It also helps them to identify the parts of the store are the most popular.

Additionally, it assists them in gathering information about shopper behavior that can be useful for product and marketing promotions. A shopping center owner can also utilize this technology to identify larger trends such as what retailers compliment others, how the placement of their advertising affects the movement of consumers within the shopping center, how many people are repeat visitors and the number of times that they have gone to the store.

Some retail stores are utilizing this data to offer clients additional services. This includes sending them reminders about their promotions. The data collected also provides an understanding of the relationship between the turnover at particular retail stores and the movement of consumers within the shopping center.

Electronic Payments

Year after year, the ratio of payments made by electronic cards compared to cash has rapidly increased. Near-field communications has been adopted on a much wider-basis in 2013 to deliver payments wirelessly through the contactless platforms in major credit cards. This e-payment trend is set to continue with the rise of mobile payments using smartphones.

According to a 2013 study that the Payments Council published, this will ultimately become a major payment channel. It is believe that by 2022, the number of payments made using this method will quadruple to an estimated 1.5 billion transactions in the U.K. alone.

As new mobile phones are released that incorporate this technology, customers will demand compatibility at point of sale terminals in retail stores. Electronic payments inevitably contain large quantities of personal information about the customer making the payment. Smart retail outlets are capitalizing on the chance to learn more about their clients and their shopping behavior.

Early adopters of this unique technology have combined forces with mobile network operators to share valuable information for use in tailored or direct in-store and advertising promotions. They are also including loyalty schemes and utilizing the information to cross-sell more effectively.

QR Codes

QR Codes are another in-store retail technology that a number of stores have been steadily adopting. They allow shoppers to scan the codes utilizing their mobile devices to buy products even if they are sold out in the store. Toy stores in the U.K. envision the technology as a help to people shopping with children. This enables them to purchase a toy as a present without having to hide it in their cart.

Clothing outlets are also using this technology. Once a client has downloaded the store’s app, they simply scan the QR codes on a piece of clothing and choose a size. The data is then sent over the store’s network where a stockroom robot finds the items and drops them through a chute into one of the outlet’s dressing rooms. If they want a different size, they can request it on their phone from inside the fitting room. A chute that is designated for unwanted items whisks the rejects away and removes them from the mobile app’s cart. Items can be purchased while still in the dressing room through the use of a wall-mounted tablet and the slide of a credit card.

QR codes are also placed into the design of window displays in retail outlets. A shopper is able to scan the QR codes on the display window and immediately obtain discounts and other offers.

Point of Sale Technology

Another technology that is rapidly growing is mobile point of sale terminals. Unlike a self-service kiosk, they still require in-store staff. Benefits include increasing sales while cutting queuing time as the store is able to bring the point of sale to the consumer. This makes the sales process very efficient. Apple has pioneered this technology. Large retailers such as Harrods have also used mobile point of sale terminals successfully.




Danny Chard is the Managing Director of Assigns Point-of-Sale and Graphic Display Systems in both standard and customised formats and sizes. Our range of Graphic Displays are designed to enable retailers to get their products and services noticed on all levels, whatever the retail environment.