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Hi-tech experience will be at the heart of high street stores: report

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High street stores are set to change to meet the demands of a multichannel world, and will transform into high-tech, high-touch ‘experience centres’.

The change is predicted today by Manhattan Associates, which says that as more products are sold online, the focus in physical stores will be on a narrower, more personalised range. Making its predictions for 2012, the supply chain optimisation envisages a growth in private labels, localised sourcing and cultural influences. “More and more retailers will look to make their high street presence more experiential to cater to the changing tastes of shoppers,” said the report. The model for a store of this kind could be the pictured ‘interactive lab’ opened opened last year in Paris by Bodum. There, customers can test out kitchen equipment in the store before ordering online.

A primary driver of the changes will be the growth of Click & Collect services, says Manhattan Associates, which will mean more customers will visit physical stores. IMRG figures for the third quarter of 2011 showed that 10.4% of all eretail sales took place through this type of service. The company also believes self-checkouts and sales assistants armed with mobile devices will change the way customers interact with sales staff.

But at the same time, it argues, retailers must be prepared for customers to buy through a wide variety of channels, which also include m-commerce, social commerce, video-enabled commerce. “The challenge for retailers will be to offer a consistent shopping experience across all channels and allow consumers to research, buy and collect wherever they want, while optimising inventory, order management and fulfilment across all channels,” said the study. “Being able to do all of this profitably is the key to long-term success.”

Craig Sears-Black, UK managing director of Manhattan Associates, said: “Increasing costs of raw materials, fuel and transport coupled with wage stagnation, the threat of rising inflation and continued insecurity due to the global financial turbulence, will make 2012 a challenging year for the retail industry.

“At the same time, the opportunities for retailers to serve consumers better will be greater than ever before – thanks to the use of new technologies, smart devices and social media. We’ve already seen tech-savvy consumers emerging in growing numbers over recent years, and 2012 will be the year of tech-savvy retailers, giving rise to a new and successful consumer-retailer relationship.”

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