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Is this the smartest retail store in the UK

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06 October 2016

Alison Wiltshire

Blogs by author: Alison Wiltshire, Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, BT.

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How we’re helping retailers to create an amazing in store experience that engages today’s digital consumers.

One of the smartest stores in the UK is just outside Ipswich. When you arrive at Alexander Black, if your smartphone is on you get a welcome message at the door. When you try on clothes you can be filmed sashaying down the catwalk and replay the video to see what you look like. You can even send it to friends on social media. If there is an item that catches your eye, just pop it on the interactive table and all sorts of information, from where it was made to how many are in stock, will come up on a screen in front of you. Promotional screens will show content tailored to your age and gender. Video walls, music and even scent help create an all round engaging experience.

What you won’t find in Alexander Black are any shoppers. That’s because Alexander Black is BT’s newest concept store, where we’ve pulled together more than 40 different technologies to show our retail customers what cutting edge retail looks like.

People have quickly become accustomed to the convenience and personalisation of shopping online. These ‘digital consumers’ still like shopping in physical stores (90 per cent of retail sales still take place in a shop), but they’d like it to be more like it is online - more personal, more fun and incredibly easy.

However, many retailers have been so preoccupied with ecommerce and new channels that their bricks and mortar locations have not caught up; most still look and feel pretty much as they did 20 years ago. Alexander Black shows retailers how combining online and real life worlds can create a more seamless brand experience that meets the expectations of today’s digital consumers.

It illustrates the five journeys that retailers must consider in the quest to transform their physical stores:
 1. Seamlessly engage digital consumers
 2. Mobilise digital store associates
 3. Digitise store operations
 4. Secure the digital transformation
 5. Use data analytics to drive business insight

Alexander Black looks and feels like a real store with departments in fashion, homeware and grocery, as well as a cafe.  But sophisticated digital touchpoints on the sales floor are just the tip of the iceberg. The core of the digital store is a common platform that allows everything to connect and share data. The danger is that retailers end up with a host of individual, unconnected digital solutions and can’t collect/leverage the data they produce.

That’s we’re working with our specialist technology partners including the Acuitas Digital Alliance to integrate customer touchpoints with enterprise systems such as inventory and PoS, and external services. With a single integrated platform, retailers can mobilise sales teams, check inventory in real time and analyse data from multiple sources for new business insights.

Most retailers we speak to understand what they need to do. How to do it consistently, securely and at scale is the tricky bit. This is where BT can help, with our industry knowledge, integration expertise and global network. If you are a retailer ready to embrace the digital future, then Alexander Black is great place to start.

(There are also Alexander Black showcases in New York and Milan, and a ‘pop up’ version in Madrid.)

Learn more about the opening of our newest Alexander Black showcase.