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data Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

5 ways 5G will impact retail

Last month, mobile phone network Three ‘switched on’ its 5G service in London through an immersive experience with fashion designer Henry Holland.   

The “Living Room of the Future” initiative saw visitors able to try on mixed reality headsets from Magic Leap, to enter into a world consisting of everything from a mindfulness moment, to a gaming experience and the delivery of (virtual) House of Holland shoes by drone to your door. 

5G is expected to ramp up in 2020 on a global level. Further cities in Switzerland, Spain, Germany and Italy have already begun adopting it. Meanwhile, in the US, although four cities have turned on the signal, the technology is tied up in a trade war, since China’s Huawei is the dominant 5G supplier. Regardless, the latest Ericsson Mobility Report predicts there will be more than 10 million 5G subscriptions globally by the end of this year, and that 5G population coverage is forecast to reach 45% by 2024.

In it simplest sense, 5G is just a faster version of 4G – about 20x the speed in fact. That coupled with almost no latency, means the new networks will nearly eliminate lag time. This is big news for mobile of course – opening up paths to purchase in even the busiest of crowds for everyday shoppers. 

But its existence will also help power other tech advances, from machine learning to digital realities. Add in features like low energy consumption and higher reliability, and it brings an opportunity for the retail industry to enhance the consumer experience in the physical store with a number of seamless real-time functionalities, leading to increased engagement and conversions. 

As a result, now is the ideal time for retailers to start planning how their stores and interfaces will look when 5G becomes widely available. Here are 5 ways we see it having an impact… 

Connected Spaces

Connectivity in our physical stores, means devices that can constantly exchange data with each other – also known as those under the header of the Internet of Things (IoT). To do so, they need a fast, reliable network that doesn’t require too much power. 5G networks will achieve a 90% reduction in power consumption, guaranteeing up to 10 years of battery life for low power IoT devices. This means, for example, that more retailers will have access to smart shelves like the ones Amazon implemented in its Amazon Go stores. This technology uses dozens of sensors to provide real-time inventory visibility and update pricing according to demand. 

Key tech we’re tracking: dynamic pricing, automated checkouts, connected fitting rooms, automatic replenishment

Amazon Go Store
Immersive Experiences

Augmented and virtual realities use a lot of processing power and cellular data. With the increased capacity of 5G networks, retailers will be able to create richer, more detailed experiences when integrating their physical and digital worlds. This will make technologies that we’re already experimenting with, and seeing consumer adoption of, only more of a possibility. The result will mean shoppers are able to immediately check product materials or ingredients through the use of smart glasses or their smartphones, for instance. Those same apps will also guide customers to the products they want by projecting directions into their field of view in real-time as they navigate the store space.

Key tech we’re tracking: immersive interfaces, gamification, wayfinding

Puma’s new flagship store with gamification
Higher Efficiencies

Artificial intelligence will also thrive on IoT devices via 5G. That’s not to say the AI algorithms themselves will change, but that the higher network will enable more accurate real-time data to flow, ultimately facilitating smarter systems. In retail, for instance, managers will be able to delegate more operational and inventory decisions to automation. This means greater efficiencies as well as accuracies on things like forecasting inventory quantities so as to optimize stock levels, leaving sales associates to spend more time on customer care. Having stock in the right place at the right time will also decrease the risk of losing customers to competitors, as product availability will be more accurate. 

Key tech we’re tracking: retail analytics, inventory visibility, demand forecasting, endless aisle  

Walmart’s endless aisle
Personalization

With lower latency, retailers will also be able to respond to purchasing patterns and behaviors with immersive, tailored content in real-time. Implementing 5G in-store will allow for greater interactions and data collections between sales associates and customers. Real time data could be tracked to create personalized adverts or offers based on the preferences of individual customers, helping to increase the incentive to buy. 

Key tech we’re tracking: marketing automation, personalized promotions, AI recommendations, product search tools, clienteling

Nike’s Melrose store
Fulfilment

The implementation of 5G will also revolutionize logistics by improving  efficiency in fulfilment tasks and increasing the speed of transportation. Greater connectivity and improved reliability will help communications between brands, couriers and consumers. The full capacity of 5G will eventually also enable the roll out of automation in transport and warehouses, thanks to improved processing of the vast amounts of data required in real-time. 

Key tech we’re tracking: smart warehousing, robotics, automated vehicles

Lowebot assisting a consumer

Additional reporting by Larissa Gomes.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

4 technologies aiding in-store navigation

Big box retailers including Walmart’s Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target are using a variety of interesting wayfinding technologies to improve customer navigation inside the physical store.

The result is designed to enable efficiency in the customer journey. This is in response to the fact that as online sales growth surpasses brick-and-mortar, customers are expecting more than just easy access to online products in physical stores, they also want to find them faster.

Cue solutions ranging from robots to augmented reality mapping. Read on for some of the strongest examples in the market to date…

Augmented Reality
Legoland Denmark augmented reality app

Home store Lowe’s was one of the first retailers to introduce an app with augmented reality indoor mapping. Instead of a 2-D image, this mobile service projects navigation signs and price specials on top of the user’s field of view – meaning they can see which direction to go in projected through their smartphones straight onto the floor or space in front of them. 

Outside of the retail space, Legoland in Denmark has recently experimented with an AR wayfinding app that helps visitors navigate around the park via a mini Lego avatar. They can also then receive real-time information on wait times ahead of them.

Voice Search
Sam’s Club Scan & Go app

Sam’s Club Now in Dallas, Walmart’s test store for technology, is also focusing on a mobile-first shopping experience. Its Scan & Go app helps customers easily access products with an integrated system using voice search for navigation. When a shopper tells the app what they need, a map directs them to the item on the shopfloor. 

Home Depot’s version meanwhile, allows users to use voice or visual search to find a specific item and then be shown exactly where it’s located within the store. Macy’s launched something similar back in 2016 with IBM Watson, which enabled users to ask question as to where specific products, departments, and brands were located, as well as what services and facilities could be found in a particular store.

Robotics
The LoweBot

From voice technology then comes robotics. Lowe’s was also one of the first to make it easier for customers to find help on the shop floor by deploying robot attendants. The “LoweBot” responds to voice commands, guiding customers through the aisles with smart laser sensors.

For Kyle Nel, executive director at Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the LoweBot resolves a common problem: “When I walk into a store and I want to know where something is I want to know right then — I don’t want to have to download an app — a robot can really help with that.”

Real-time Beacons
Target

Target is heavily investing in beacon technology for the sake of navigation also. It renewed its stores to use energy-efficient LED lighting with built-in Bluetooth beacons, which enable the store’s app to show customers their real-time location on the shop floor in a similar experience to that of Google Maps. They also help notify customers when they walk by one of Target’s “Cartwheel” deals.

Gatwick Airport has also invested in beacon technology as part of its £2.5bn transformation. Here, 2,000 indoor navigation beacons have been installed to help customers easily navigate around the terminals and reduce the amount of missed flights. Augmented reality plays a part here too, with a blue line mapped through the smartphone for users to show them which direction to go in.

The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more. 

Categories
data Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

Walmart’s Sam’s Club focuses on connected innovation in new store

Augmented reality in the Sam's Club Now app
Augmented reality on the Sam’s Club Now app

Walmart-owned member’s-only retailer, Sam’s Club, is set to open a new retail concept where it will be trialling innovative technologies including mandatory mobile checkout and AR-enabled packaging.

The space, which will be based in Dallas, Texas, will be the retailer’s innovation epicenter and act as part technology lab, part store.

The retailer’s mobile app will act as the central hub for the experience, with existing Scan & Go technology acting as the only way to shop the space, called Sam’s Club Now. Additional technologies will then be added and refined gradually.

Customers using Scan & Go can scan items to add them to the app’s shopping cart and upon leaving the store, a member of staff will scan for a QR code to complete the purchase.

They can also scan selected packaging to bring up more information on particular items, such as provenance, via augmented reality.

Sam’s Club Now
Scan & Go on the Sam’s Club Now app

Navigating the store will also become more seamless, as customers can search via voice for a particular item, and a map will lead them to the correct shopfloor location. The retailer forecasts that in the future this will be updated with beacon technology, which will allow members to receive a personalized map upon entering the store that will show them an optimized route for their shopping journey.

Additional features include a one-hour pickup of items ordered via the app, as well as electronic shelf labels that instantly update prices. In the future, the store also aims to optimize inventory and layout of shopping space by integrating 700 cameras in the club.

An integral part of the new retail format, however, will be its focus on retail staff. Associates are now known as Member Hosts, which is meant to better describe their new focus on improving customer service. “Eliminating friction doesn’t mean replacing exceptional member service with a digital experience,” said John Furner, Sam’s Club president and CEO. “We know our members expect both.”

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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What you missed: Shopping on Instagram, the mobile web, Silicon Valley’s top retail VC

Shopping Instagram
Shopping is coming to Instagram

The big story on the web this week was of course about shopping coming to Instagram, but backing that idea even further comes the fact mobile browsing overtook desktop for the first time. That’s a huge deal for retailers.

Meanwhile also worth catching up on is an in-depth view on how Nike embraced sustainability, an exploration of what Gen Z and Millennials love and hate about social media, and an update on wearables from the world of Will.i.am. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass taking place on November 22.


TOP STORIES
  • Shopping is coming to Instagram [WWD]
  • Mobile web browsing overtakes desktop for the first time [Guardian]
  • How Forerunner Ventures’ Kirsten Green crashed Silicon Valley’s boys’ club to become retail’s top VC [Forbes]
  • The downward spiral: Why Everlane, Mizzen+Main, and Lululemon don’t discount[LeanLuxe]
  • How mass retailers are traversing ‘big transparency’ [Glossy]

BUSINESS
  • Hermès joins luxury-goods makers reporting Chinese recovery [Bloomberg]
  • Bain: Chinese shoppers’ share of global luxury purchases drops to 30% [Jing Daily]
  • Karlie Kloss and David Lauren talk innovation [BoF]
  • Are the Black Friday sales worth it and are the deals real or a con? [The Telegraph]

SUSTAINABILITY
  • Just fix it: how Nike learned to embrace sustainability [BoF]
  • Kering launches free environmental calculator for fashion designers [Ecouterre]
  • One chart shows how fast fashion is reshaping the global apparel industry [Quartz]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Everlane tests social shopping on Snapchat with Sweet [Glossy]
  • Here’s what Gen Z and Millennials love and hate about Instagram and Snapchat [AdWeek]
  • Facebook’s WhatsApp is testing a feature like Snapchat Stories [Digital Trends]
  • Twitter takes on Facebook as it rolls out customer service chatbots within direct messages [The Drum]
  • YouTube is helping to sell a lot of make-up [Bloomberg]
  • Facebook shares Snapchat attack plan, including a new camera [AdAge]

ADVERTISING
  • Reformation’s founder on its ‘stigma-breaking’ new campaign starring trans model Andreja Pejic [Yahoo]
  • Miss Piggy stars in Kate Spade holiday ad campaign and collection [WWD]
  • Nordstrom gets in festive spirit with customer appreciation campaign [Luxury Daily]
  • H&M replace David Beckham with younger model The Weeknd after five years [International Business Times]
  • Harvey Nichols keeps up irreverent advertising tradition with “Britalia” [The Industry]

RETAIL
  • Simon Malls preps for holiday rush with interactive wayfinding directories [Luxury Daily]
  • John Lewis signs up to click and collect joint venture with Clipper Logistics [Internet Retailing]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Will.i.am moves wearables off the wrist with the help of Kendall Jenner and Apple [NY Times]
  • L’Oréal is using virtual reality to expand the “Matrix Academy” [Fast Company]

START-UPS
  • Introducing Floravere, the first direct-to-consumer, made-to-order wedding dress brand [Fashionista]

UPCOMING EVENTS