Far from being the death knell of traditional retail, technology is playing a crucial part in re-inventing it, helping bring brands and stores closer to consumers, and several Asian markets are in the forefront of these developments.

E-commerce sales may be growing ten times faster than in-store sales, but 80% of goods will still be bought at a physical outlet in five years’ time, according to Michelle Evans, head of digital consumer research at Euromonitor International.

Speaking at the recent Money 20/20 conference in Singapore, she pointed out that connected consumers still want to try before they buy – but the nature of the in-store experience is changing.

“In the past, it was more about transactions,” she said. “You bought the item, and the relationship was over. Now the consumer journey is about relationship-building.

“At any point, the brand or the retailer is trying to provide a sort of value before, during and after the purchase, and make use of technology to bring to life the brand ethos.”

Evans detailed several key factors at work, adding that, in Asia, industry players are “tiptoeing their way” towards future retail. (For more, read WARC’s report: Reinventing Asia’s retail stores of the future.)

One trend is around having the best of both worlds and “embedding technology in stores to mimic the experience that you might have online”, such as the smart shelves in cosmetics brand Innisfree’s Hangzhou store: shoppers can pick up an item and see more details about it on a corresponding touchscreen.

Another is greater automation, as robots take on various tasks from packing items to delivering basic information to consumers. Convenience chain 7-Eleven operates a couple of unmanned stores in Taipei and Seoul where a robot can recognise consumers, either by facial recognition or digital wallet, greet them and deliver personalised messages.

A third is immersive storytelling, where the use of mixed realities opens up a new range of possibilities for brick-and-mortar stores. In Tokyo, Starbucks uses AR in its Reserve Roastery to educate consumers on, for example, different brewing methods.

“It’s all about how you bring those brand ethoses to life in a variety of forms, whether it’s product labels or even shop windows,” said Evans.

Sourced from WARC