“If you’re a retailer and you wanted to change every price in every store, for a large grocer that would be an impossible task. It would become, in the new world, possible at the click of a button.”
The “new world” that Displaydata’s Andrew Dark is referring to is already a reality across much of mainland Europe and promises to be a reality in the UK in the coming months.
Technological advances have transformed the way we shop entirely in recent years, yet the spotlight so often falls on ways retailers can solidify their online offering.
Although these advances play a big part in the future of retail, there are a wealth of technologies poised to have an equally profound effect on the industry which are often overlooked in favour of ecommerce-driven perspectives.
“Retailers have struggled to get to grips with the issue of slavery in their supply chains,” explained Steve Wickham. the head of CSR at technology firm Matrix.
“It can take many forms, from Nestlé to Sports Direct, often business owners don’t know the half of what happens on their shop floors, let alone in the supply chain.
“To this aid, we’ve worked tirelessly with big retailers and NGOs, to create a social media solution with transparency kept at the heart.”
Modern slavery and retail are tragically intertwined, and the issue remains a huge problem for big brands. Matrix’s proposed solution is an example of how new technologies are being utilised to tackle some of the huge obstacles facing the industry.
“MatrixChat is a website and communication service, using WeChat, China’s biggest messaging service. It will help give factory workers a voice,” Wickham said.
“The site allows workers to keep in touch with their bosses and partnering businesses, providing a place for them to share thoughts about their working conditions and keep across regulations and compliancy objectives.
“The best part is, it’s all in real-time. We expect social media to be the spine that will carry us to much better and more ethical supply chains.
“Through development of a new mini site, MatrixChat will allow workers to post their concerns and log everything from quality of life and satisfaction statistics to making workplace requests for communal wifi.
“The transparent communication will help factory managers to hear worker’s voices and understand how they can improve their lives to ensure they feel better at work and are able do a better job in the long run.”
Advances needn’t be constricted to the digital realm either, introducing new ideas to outdated practices in the physical retail world is just as important.
Digital signage company Displaydata has managed this by asking what seems in hindsight to be an obvious question.
“What we asked them three or four years ago is why they weren’t taking the obvious step of replacing paper signs in stores with digital technology so they could present offers more accurately, present pricing in line with products more eloquently and why they were using very expensive intelligent people to cut out squares put them into shelves,” Dark said.
“What we’ve done is assemble the solution, which has been primarily developed in conjunction with collaboration and discussion with tier one retailers in North America and Europe primarily.
“Being able to change any aspect of the content of the screen making it effectively a mini kindle, a piece of canvas you can put any image, wording or pricing on and you can change that remotely, was really what retailers were after.
“we are beginning to see examples of it transforming the way high-level advertising… displays are created within the retail space.”
“They were all very conscious of the image quality of paper, you can walk can walk 180 degrees to paper and walk down a shopping isle and you can still read it, that’s very important.
“They also worked out that it was defeating the point if you couldn’t actually change something on the display to highlight a promotion, so adding a colour.
“All of that had to be delivered in a solution that you could manage from a central location, head office. Essentially that’s what we’ve delivered.”
Promotion is clearly a significant consideration for retailers, and anything that can enhance promotional potential for a reduced cost is a no-brainer for investment.
Massivit 3D’s vice president of marketing and business development Lilach Sapir suggests 3D printing could be a valuable investment for retailers.
“Despite its popularity in such sectors, it’s fair to say that 3D printing has yet to properly make its mark on the retail and exhibition industries,” she said.
“However, if you are a retail owner or a marketer the good news is that the 3D printing opportunity might be within closer reach than you thought.
“3D printing technology has the flexibility, speed and price point to unlock huge new creative opportunities and drive profitable growth for users in the retail sector.
“3D printing allows retailers to create vibrant, eye-catching window displays, point of purchase (POP) stands, visual merchandising and exhibitions elements and even bespoke retail outlets that surpasses what can be achieved with traditional manufacturing.
“With the capability to very quickly produce larger-than-life high-quality 3D pieces, we are beginning to see examples of it transforming the way high-level advertising, visual merchandising and POP and POS displays are created within the retail space.”
Louis Vuitton recently hired an Australian 3D printing specialist to construct the world’s first 3D printed pop-up store.
“The entire display was finished in chrome mirror self-adhesive vinyl and adorned with distinctive Louis Vuitton designed animal prints matching the theme of the brand’s collection, which caught the gaze of shoppers at Sydney’s Westfield shopping centre,” Sapir added.
All of these solutions utilise technology which has been within our grasp for years, yet each provides a smart and efficient solution to elements which have seen little development in decades.
Each also stands as proof the sector is evolving outside of the world of digital shopping, and that there is plenty of work to be done elsewhere.