5 Minutes With Mark Thomson, Director of Retail Solutions, Zebra Technologies

In-store retail technology is evolving with great speed, and a growing trend for 2018 is ‘Shoppertainment’, a millennial-led trend where a trip to a shopping centre is as much as seeking an experience as coming home with a product. Zebra Technologies is at the forefront of the rising trend, so we caught up with Director of Retail Solutions Mark Thomson to learn more.

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Tell us a little bit about Zebra Technologies and its vision

Zebra gives organisations a performance edge through the provision of purpose-built hardware combined with insightful data. Increasingly, this means that front-line workers are provided with real time contextual data to enable them to be more efficient and to serve their customers better.

What were you doing before you joined the company?

Personally I have had a wide variety of experience which helps me have a broad understanding of different businesses. I have worked in hospitality managing a golf and country club, headed up marketing for a retail business as well as being a corporate financial advisor and running a sales training team.

Can you explain the premise of “shoppertainment”?

What we mean by shoppertainment – and bear in mind, this is only applicable where relevant – is the creation of shopping experiences based around fun and high levels of customer interaction.

Self-scanning tools such as the Tesco Scan as You Shop are part of this, especially where we see parents hand the scanners to the children to involve and entertain them during the shopping process. Other examples are smart RFID-based fitting rooms at Tommy Hilfiger to video walls at Burberry and Adidas.

Ultimately, successful retailers are looking to ensure that shopping – whether for food, clothes or other items – is no longer a chore, but actually fun.

Why is shoppertainment important in retail today?

There are several reasons why this is important. Firstly the millennial generation is now a significant shopping cohort and behave differently with expectations that come from an Amazon-like experience rather than traditional retail. They value experiences over assets, and they are the Instagram generation who are hungry for subjects to post on their feed.

Secondly, we are also in a transparent retail world, where prices, experiences (good and bad), availability and service are all shared instantly, so the good gets noticed and selected whereas bad service, lack of experience, poor pricing etc also gets noticed, published and punished. This creates a harsh and volatile retail environment where retailers must work hard all the time on all aspects of their business model.

Which demographic is leading the shoppertainment trend and why?

We generally point straight away to the millennials, but all ages are more connected than ever and expectations are now higher across all demographics.

How do you think shoppertainment will evolve in the future?

We will begin to see a lot more personalisation in the shopping process and this will form part of the shoppertainment, whether it is sneakers made based on a scan of my feet and 3D printed in front of me in my personal colourway, or promotional offers just for me as I walk around a supermarket.

Inevitably, robotics will play a growing role both in terms of operational retail roles such as inventory scanning, but also (as they improve) they will become better at interacting with customers and providing assistance while shopping – finding products, carrying shopping, offering product information etc.

What are your three top tips for retailers to implement shoppertainment?

First of all: relevance. If customers are seeking a convenience experience, then time and reduced friction is the key, not entertainment.

Secondly: Data. Gain more confidence about the data in your businesses, such as inventory data and share it with staff and customers. Let them know exactly what is in stock and if it’s not there, give them easy ways to order it or give them great alternatives.

Thirdly: staff. Your staff are the single most important point of interaction with customers and they have the ability to influence the experience. Provide them with the right tools the right data and make them part of the shopper journey.

The shoppertainment trend is driving retailers to invest in their physical stores, but it’s important to understand that increased footfall will not necessarily increase sales. Retailers still need to focus investment on the right personalised experience and customer service. Nonetheless, this includes the inclusion of the latest technology. 

To find out more about what sorts of technological innovations would work best for your retail business, including shoppertainment, visit Zebra Retail Technology Solutions:
www.zebra.com/gb/en/solutions/retail-solutions.html

To download Zebra’s 2018 Shopper Vision StudyClick here

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