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Ellen Hammett 

New retail tech aims to re-invigorate in-store shopping

New retail tech aims to re-invigorate in-store shopping

The recession killed off a host of big name retailers, from Jessops to HMV, with the rise of online shopping, home delivery services and tough market conditions largely to blame. But can technology turn things around for Britain's high street shops?

Maxus believes that it can, which is why the media agency has developed a number of retail-focused technologies to help improve the in-store experience.

From a magic mirror to contactless Bluetooth payments, Maxus has come up with seven nifty ideas to make trawling round the bustling high street shops that little bit more exciting - designed specifically to benefit two of its clients: L'Oreal and Tesco.

Consumers who dare to stand before Maxus' Magic Mirror will undergo an interactive facial analysis, which recognises skin tone and colouring. Described as a "beauty assistant in a box", the mirror then presents a number of looks to try using the cosmetics available.

Another technology - the iShelf - has been designed to bring dull shop shelves to life by providing content for products to make it easier to compare items and promotions; while a trolley app - Wayfinder - guides consumers around the store and brings up promotions.

Last month Primesight's Lee Anderson argued that Britain's ailing high streets deserve better - and that media has a significant role to play in ensuring people keep visiting and spending in and around the high street.

"20% of the UK GDP is contributed by retail sales, 3 million people are employed on the UK high street, 100 Regent Street stores are now fitted with iBeacons, and by 2016 connected retail will influence 44% of all retail sales, so opportunity still knocks if we recognise the importance that our thriving high streets provide to the country," said Anderson.

"From a retailer standpoint, those who emerge out of the changing landscape will do so through using a mix of the online and offline experiences - making shopping more convenient and easier, whether online, in-store or through mobile applications.

"They will also increase their communication tactics to educate on the new processes, technology and experiences that are occurring for consumers."

Headshot_Sarah.Todd_colourInterview: Neil Stewart, global chief client officer, Maxus.

How is technology impacting consumers when shopping?
Today's shopper is quite literally more switched on than ever before. The ubiquity of smartphones, tablets and the rise of omni-channel retailing has given way to an ultra-connected, ultra-informed consumer. Global Ecommerce is set to hit $1.2 trillion this year (eMarketer); as a result of consumers shopping with their smartphone firmly in one hand - price checking and making comparisons as they go. The result is an expectation from consumers that their experience in the physical retail environment will match the ease and convenience of shopping online.

What effects are Maxus' new retail technologies likely to have?
Our hope is twofold: firstly, that from a consumer's perspective, they will get the information and content they need to make better, informed decisions in-store. And secondly, that it will provide brands and marketers with a truly bespoke service.

In the instance of the Magic Mirror, we know that there is a tendency for consumers to shy away from asking for help - not just in beauty but across the categories. So for the consumer this technology offers tangible benefits. For retailers and marketers, the benefits are significant. These technologies enable you to engage with your target demographic and while doing so capture invaluable data which can be used to gain a better understanding of your shopper and their individual needs.

What does the future look like for in-store tech?
Data will have a bigger part to play in the future of in-store tech. Maxus' Retail Analytics technology offers retailers insight into what is happening at the last three feet just prior to sale and crucially, the ability to make better investment decisions on all activity leading up to that sale.

There's a lot of in-store tech already, but it is neither useful nor engaging enough for consumers. For example, the last time I went to Bangkok airport, on arrival in the terminal I looked at my phone and saw 63 text messages from retailers in the duty free area.

For someone that has just landed from a potentially very long flight, this bombardment is going to be confusing and quite simply irritating. The challenge for using tech in the retail space is refraining from being too intrusive - 63 messages is enough to put anyone off going shopping. It requires a balancing act between what we can do and what as a brand or retailer, we should do.

The recession killed off a host of famous retail brands. Does technology have the potential to save those that remain?
Any retailer knows that to get shoppers back to the high street, the in-store experience needs to offer them something that shopping online can't. This is where technology can be a great enabler.

It has the potential to offer customers insights and information that they wouldn't have access to online and provides a far more interactive experience. Those that can juggle the myriad of touch points through which we all communicate will be the ultimate winners in the fight for expendable currency.

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