Retail WiFi landscape in 2015 - Richard Cope Q&A

Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel, summarises his thoughts on the rise of the constantly connected consumer.

Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel, summarises his thoughts on the rise of the constantly connected consumer.

Richard Cope, Senior Trends Consultant at Mintel, summarises his thoughts on the rise of the constantly connected consumer.

As retail technology gathers apace, how do you see the consumer relationship with the high street changing?

Consumers are going to expect a seamless experience between the high street and online as they seek the same instant gratification in the real world. They’re used to the pages of their online retail brands loading instantly, and the internet never closes. The high street must embrace this by providing their customers with a seamless online/offline experience; for example using their online behaviour to deliver a more personalised experience in-store, putting the store assistant in a position to bridge the online/offline environments.  Click-and-collect is one example of how online/offline environments are working together to provide consumer convenience.

How do you think the high street will fare this Christmas, with online retail continuing to grow exponentially?

At Mintel we expect online sales to spike over the Christmas period and overall sales year-on-year to increase by 3%. This will largely be driven by the growth in popularity of click-and-collect and in 2015 Mintel predicts it will become particularly prevalent accounting for around 17% of online sales. Throughout 2015 we expect more pop-up stores, offering the convenience of being able to try on, collect and return items, and sell 3D printed gifts, all ultimately supporting the uplift in sales.

Would you pick out any particular stores as being retail technology innovators?

One retailer in particular that is progressive with technology trials is Waitrose. They’re embracing things like the smart home by trialling front-of-store self-check out technology in the home, with their own version of Amazon Dash in 2015 and will also be trialling chilled food lockers, broadening the possibilities of intermediary collection points.

What has been the most overhyped technological trend in the past 5 years?

Google Glass. It feels like a misfire as it came about as a technology to benefit the needs of surgeons and aerospace engineers, and I’m not sure it’s been refined sufficiently for use in retail. Some brands like Virgin are embracing it by recognising VIPs curbside at airports and providing them an enhanced experience, but generally it’s not really playing out in the consumer space.

There is much talk about data capture and analytics.  To what extent is this being used by retailers to engage with customers in a meaningful way?

Retailers are really embracing the use of data to make recommendations. We’re living in an algorithm-led society now. Amazon really pioneered it and you have stores like Macy’s offering customers micro-Google stock searches in-store. But this needs to go further. Retailers need to do more with the data they capture as consumers become more conscious of its value as they adopt wearable tech. Grocers should analyse shopping data to offer statements and advice on the nutrition we need to help us hit our health targets. A bank in Russia, Alpha Bank, provides preferential interest rates for customers proving their health with data from fitness trackers. Consumers will want more that discounts for the data they provide. We will want them to help us analyse our lives and help us make choices using that data.

Privacy is often mentioned alongside the use of data but UK research shows that consumers are willing to give data if they receive something in return.

What one piece of advice would you give today’s retailers as they look to the future and try to capture more market share in the ever-competitive retail space?

Retailers need to have a digital mind-set and be playful with the technology they’re using and provide consumers with the ability to be creative and, individual, by providing opportunities for customisation and personalisation. Customers don’t differentiate between online and in-store, so retailers need to provide that online speed and convenience across all their channels. This may require investment in things like staff training for a better in-store experience, fast-tracking, curation of content, but the seamless proposition will pay dividends

What are you most excited about seeing from retailers over the next 12 months?

I’m interested to see what happens in the fashion retail space. Customers are reluctant to purchase fashion online; they want to try it on and return it easily. Fashion retailers need to expand their services with pop-up pods in convenient locations for customers to be able to try things on and return products easily. We’ll also see those brands embracing things like body-mapping to work out what size customers are in different brands. I think we’ll see them begin to overcome the obstacles fashion retail is currently facing in the online world.