Updating the physical store is one of the biggest priorities for many retailers, as the format comes under pressure both from declining footfall and disruptive new entrants such as Alibaba. In fact, a survey of over 2000 people in the UK by affiliate network Awin.com found that 39% would not care if all high street stores closed down. Asked why they thought the high street was struggling, 73% said shopping online was easier.
This week saw a number of Europe’s biggest names announce new projects that show where they think the physical store is headed.
On 14 February, Germany’s bonprix will open a new pilot store in Hamburg called fashion connect which it claims offers “an entirely unique, digitally driven shopping experience.”
The anchor of the store is the bonprix app, which has been specially enhanced for use in the store. Customers check in when they arrive and can then scan products with their smartphone’s camera, specifying their desired size.
These products are then picked by staff and placed in a fitting room for the customer to try on. If they need a different size they can order it from the room with the app.
The customer then simply has to leave the fitting room with their desired clothes and their virtual “shopping bag” will be automatically updated via RFID technology. They can then pay via PayPal on the app or pay at the check-out via card or cash.
The outlet aims to bring together the advantages of online and offline retail, avoiding inconveniences such as long queues.
Sven Seidel, head of multichannel retail at bonprix’s parent company Otto Group, said: “The shopping experience and face-to-face advice are still the USPs of traditional retail.
“However, to remain profitable in the future it’s essential we harness the opportunities that digitalisation offers so we can integrate more digital, consumer-oriented services into offline retail. The Otto Group is currently testing a range of concepts. The experimental strategy bonprix is pursuing with “fashion connect” is one of our most innovative.”
bonprix said the store would serve as an “experimental shopping lab”, with new features such as personalised product suggestions set to be added later.
The Polish convenience store chain Żabka, which operates over 5400 sales points in the country, is looking to eliminate check-outs through AI and sensors.
Working with store automation company AiFi, the retailer will build a self-contained capsule that can be installed and then operate at all times without personnel. The partners will also enhance existing stores with new technology.
The sensors will register and analyse different types of data in real time before an AI algorithm analyses the data in order to automatically charge customers.
The analytics will also be able to notify staff of the need to stock shelves and identify the products which are selling best.
Tomasz Blicharski, VP for Finance and Development at Żabka, said: “The solutions we create are designed to adapt us to customer expectations by offering them the most advanced, convenient and fastest shopping experience on the market. AiFi technology will enable us to offer customers faster service and optimise the management of traditional stores by franchisees, facilitating their daily operations.
“We can’t wait to let our customers and franchisees share the experience of a new dimension in daily shopping.”
French retailer E.Leclerc has launched its first ever click and collect point for online shopping.
The “E.Leclerc Relais” on Paris’s avenue de Clichy will offer an alternative fulfilment option for customers of the chezmoi.leclerc home delivery service, launched in March last year.
After ordering online from the company’s catalogue of 13,000 products, customers can choose a time slot between 10AM and 10PM from Monday to Saturday and then retrieve their order for free.
The retailer plans to open 12 more of the stores in 2019.