Imagine walking past a store on your local high street when your eye is caught by a digital window display. You pull out your phone, scan a QR code on the display and you take control of it, browsing the store’s items with your phone.
After seeing a t-shirt you like, you enter the store and find it sitting on a rack before taking it to the changing room and placing it on a hook.
Immediately a virtual mirror in the changing room displays the item, its different colours, and its available sizes. The size you picked is a little small, so you tap a button on the screen and the shop assistant brings you the next size up without you having to leave the changing room.
It fits and looks great, so you snap a photo of yourself using the virtual mirror and share it to your Facebook to see what your friends think.
You leave to go and purchase your t-shirt but you’re faced with a long queue at the till. Before joining you’re approached by a shop assistant who asks if you’d like to pay for your item, before presenting a tablet and mobile card machine, allowing you to pay and leave in seconds.
This is the world that Cegid, a company specialising in retail technology and innovation, promises its customers throughout the world.
Every month 50 retailers, journalists and thought leaders visit Cegid’s Innovation Store in Lyon, a veritable what’s what of emerging retail technologies.
This small mock-shop plays out this futuristic vision of retail in real time, laying bare everything from RFID stock tracking, to VR product explorations, to mobile EPOS systems and even physical interactive robots.
Many of these technologies are developed by Cegid’s eclectic roster of partners, ranging from disruptive start-ups to well established technology giants.
“Stores will become fulfillment centres, that will be part of their role”
Though the physical installations are certainly offered to prospective retail customers, Cegid’s main attraction is its “Unified Commerce Platform”, software that enables all these elements to work in tandem seamlessly, transforming new technologies from exciting experiments to workable and manageable solutions.
The Innovation Store proves beyond question that these technologies are a reality, ready to be rolled out across any willing retail buyer’s store estate. Yet, other than show-piece flagship stores, you’ll be hard pushed to find many genuine examples of any of these innovations being properly utilised.
Cegid’s marketing director Tania Oakey told Charged that she believes the industry is on the verge of moving from an experimental phase, to a period of increased mainstream adoption.
“Having that seamless journey converging the online and offline, less than 50 per cent of retailers are actually doing it, so it’s really important to understand why,” she said.
“Over the past few years retailers have been experimenting, they were buying different technologies and doing different things and it wasn’t all coming together, and you can see it happening now.
“I think even this year we’re going to see many retailers investing heavily in unified commerce, omnichannel and mobile for store associates.”
Using Cegid’s connected platform, the entire customer journey can be tracked and logged, creating a profile for them which includes their purchases and even a wish list, allowing retailers to create unique customised offerings for each shopper.
It also monitors stock in real time, meaning every store assistant can track inventory and manage their stock room, allowing them to instantly inform a customer if an item is in stock, and if its not where they can go to get it.
The Unified Commerce Platform puts all this information in one place, granting any member of staff from board members to stock room workers the ability to access it on their smart phone, tablet, stationary till or even a smart watch.
“Stores have to become places of experience, of entertainment, of community activity”
Fundamentally, this allows small stores with limited shelf space the ability to showcase their entire range, transforming a virtual store into a virtual showroom with endless aisle technology.
In a retail landscape where the cost of physical store space is skyrocketing, but the need for an engaging physical presence is vital, solutions such as Cegid’s could mean the difference between a retailer’s success and its demise.
“Stores will become fulfilment centres, that will be part of their role,” Oakey added.
“Imagine if you buy a product and you live five minutes away from a store, it is much cheaper for that retailer to send you that product from a store than to have it sent from the UK distribution centre.”
The role of retail stores is also changing at breakneck speed. Long gone are the days when the only way to purchase items was by visiting a store. Now stores must offer something beyond core retail, something which motivates people to leave their homes, visit their shop and part with their money.
“You could buy all your life and never walk into a physical store, today consumers have to want to come to stores,” she continued.
“Stores have to become places of experience, of entertainment, of community activity. It is the customer driving change. You could say it’s the technology, but the technology is only answering the consumer’s expectations.”
Just like virtual reality, once hailed as the next major technological step set to revolutionise the way we interact digitally, these interactive technologies are often dismissed as gimmicks to be resigned to the same fate as 3D television and Google Glass.
However, as retailers scramble to reinvent the role of their stores within their operations, this is exactly what they need, igniting enough curiosity among their customer base to motivate them to come in-store and experience it first-hand.
Not only does Cegid offer retailers a thoroughly efficient way to run their business, but it also offers them the opportunity to introduce emerging technologies into their operations seamlessly, technologies which are set to become vital to the success of the industry as it continues its period of transformation.