What we learned from Future Stores 2019

It’s billed as the annual gathering of in-store experience leaders from Europe’s most progressive retailers — and this year’s event at Twickenham stadium proved to be a veritable scrum of ideas. Here are our hot takes on the biggest trends and ideas from day one of the two-day event:

Stores should focus on ‘What Amazon Can’t’ (WAC)

This was a phrase used by Simon Russell, director of operational development at John Lewis. Amazon wins hands down on price, convenience and a whole list of other factors so physical stores need to work on their differentiators. John Lewis is leading the way on the WAC factor. The retailer is wrapping its retail offering with a range of complimentary services and experiences. These include featuring in-store stylists and fashion advisors, gin tasting, a pop-up barber in the Southampton store, offering the services of 400 curtain and carpet fitters nationwide, providing eye tests and Waitrose is working on a ‘delivery to fridge’ service in which delivery staff access a customer’s home using a smart lock. Simon said John Lewis’ strategy is to grow itself out of the challenges facing the high street – giving customer more on-brand reasons to shop with the brand.

Beware of ‘generational clash’ instore

Is that Millennial your colleague has just served being rude or have they just fallen foul of a generation clash? Melissa Dunn, head of digital product development at Sainsbury’s Argos, explains there’s a danger of confused signals when sales staff and customers from different generations interact in-store. Retailers should train their workforce to understand these differences and give staff strategies to overcome them. In other words that Millennial wasn’t being rude. They were looking at their phone while talking to the sales assistant because they were blending physical and digital experiences in store.

New tech can herald a return to the golden days of retail

Way back in Victorian times shopkeepers knew their customers’ needs in minute detail. But Graham Johnston, head of omnichannel at mobile retailer Three, says the latest tech is bringing the retailer closer to their customers once again. Three has launched a new video solution that enables customers to watch live in-store product demonstrations and pose questions in real time. The retailer is broadcasting these demos on the hour, every hour from inexpensive in-store studios and even on the shop floor using a selfie stick. If customers have more detailed questions they’re put through to an associate at their local store who can livestream a personalised demo, add products to their online basket or invite them instore for a hands-on session.

Swarovski is pioneering tech in luxury stores

High-end watch and jewellery brand Swarovski is using ‘Virtual Try On’ and ‘Selfie Stand’ solutions in its two concept stores to shake up the way people buy luxury products. The brand’s pop up stores also feature floor-to-ceiling LED walls that act as giant screens. The retailer made the move to shake off the traditional image of jewellery stores, where products are kept beyond reach in glass display cabinets.

Develop digital solutions…without telling the business

This may sound sneaky but it makes great sense, according to Melissa Dunn, head of digital product development at Sainsbury’s Argos. Her argument is that often colleagues in the business are not able to visualise the benefits of technology until it is developed and they can play with it. She gave the example of an augmented reality solution that enabled Argos customers to see how a TV looked in their lounge. Once it was developed the Argos commercial team enhanced the idea by selling advertising on the image of the TV and adding a function to enable the customer to try out different TV stands. Xxxx said: “If I went to our commercial team and discussed the technicalities of designing an augmented reality app, visual search or the ability to reserve goods using Google Assistant they would probably have just stare at me!”

Here’s more information about Future Stores 2019 and the speakers who attended.

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