The future: technology in retail

The future: technology in retail

Consumer confidence in brands may be at a low but TRO's senior digital project manager believes that retailers are paving the way in offering customers tangible benefits.

Consumer trust is at an all-time low. There have been plenty of infamous data protection debacles, and there’s hope that brands will learn from other companies’ shortcomings. But it’s not just data storage that’s the concern – there’s also the well-documented controversy surrounding covert data harvesting within online advertising.

Fuelled by fear of online privacy being breached, consumers are cautious about how they engage digitally – driven by concern of brands monitoring their movements and habits.

The paradox is, despite not wanting to feed their data to brands, consumers enjoy hyper personalisation when there’s a tangible benefit. We’ve seen the great success Kit-Kat enjoyed with its shopper campaign utilising bespoke packaging on a large scale – with customers willingly handing over their email addresses, photographs and home addresses.

The fact that new data protection laws have been so widely reported on means that consumers will be increasingly safe in the knowledge that companies have stringent guidelines in place. There’s a growing public expectation that brands will become more responsible – and I predict this will be the catalyst for a turnaround in consumer trust.

The perceived negative connotations attached to data analysis will evolve from feelings of intrusion to recognition of benefits… maybe even a drive towards proactive data sharing.

Cutting the tether

Insights tell us that consumers are increasingly longing to cut the tether between them and their devices. As a result of this, hyper personalisation will transition from mobile to out of home, and the "fourth screen" will be rapidly adopted as a medium for delivering personalised content. This will enable brands to serve truly meaningful information, more passively, in live environments like shopping malls, airports and supermarkets.

Navigating through the noise

The evolution of grocery shopping will be driven by retailers’ growing access to data and analysis of shopper profiles and preferences. PwC recently found that 86% of polled retail executives expect imminent investment in the research of consumer shopping behaviour, with the hope of boosting their margins up to 60%.

Retailers such as Tesco will identify its customers through their wearable devices or distinguishing features to make highly responsive shopping recommendations, or as an effective means of wayfinding.

Tesco could signpost consumers directly towards items on their usual shopping list, or make useful recommendations, for example directing customers pushing a pram to the baby food aisle, or offering highly relevant product offers i.e. nappies. Thus generating a tangible drive to purchase, to the right person in the right place with the right offer.

This concept also translates to major exhibitions. Taste of London, for example, could use a network of local customer profiling data, instantly assessing attendees to maximise their consumer journey.

Fourth screen content would highlight the most relevant stands – like directing visitors who regularly frequent vegan food market stalls in East London straight to the event’s favoured vegan exhibitors.

Suits you, sir

For Fashion Week, we created an interactive experience for Madame Tussauds in Sydney offering visitors a makeover through augmented reality. Tracking 68 facial features in real-time, users chose makeup to virtually try on, colour-matching eye shadow and lipstick, allowing them to trial the product before committing to a purchase.

Bespoke automated shopping experiences will enhance the non-browsing consumer’s retail experience, enabling time-poor shoppers to be more efficient – both in-store and on the move.

Object recognition has been around for a little while (see Google Goggles) but it is only now starting to work its way into retail, with the fashion sector paving the way. Asos has already effectively delivered object recognition within its shopping app, enabling customers to snap a fellow commuter’s enviable garment and immediately order something similar.

You feelin’ ok?

Emotion detection technology has already started making waves, and it’s likely to evolve in such a way that home, workplace and retail environments will adapt elements like heating, lighting and messaging, to satisfy our needs. Think Alexa, without Alexa (which sounds a bit Black Mirror).

Advanced technologies will become so intrinsic that it’ll almost be detrimental to not embrace them. In a decade’s time we’ll have a seismic shift in attitudes towards intelligent creative tech – and I believe it’ll be less Big Brother Is Watching You, and more Big Brother Is Helping You.

Andy Feasey is senior digital project manager at TRO

This article is part of a special report on tech in branded experiences to view the full report you need to be a Campaign member. For membership options go to

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