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You can't afford not to think digital-first


04 . Mai  2017

Alison Wiltshire

Posts nach Autoren: Alison Wiltshire, Global Practice Lead, Retail and Consumer Goods, BT.


Customers still like to shop in physical stores, in fact approximately 90% of all retail sales are still made there. However times have changed and they expect the experience to be more like it is online: easy, convenient and personalised.

We’ve asked our retail industry guru Alison Wiltshire why the Alexander Black retail showcase should be on your list of things to see at Innovation 2017, even if you're not a retailer.

Can you tell us a bit about Alexander Black?

Alexander Black is our immersive retail showcase, bringing store transformation to life and demonstrating the possibilities of digital innovation.

We have Alexander Black ‘stores’ in New York and Milan, and the one at Adastral Park is our ‘Flagship’, formally opened in September 2016.

What changes have you seen in the retail sector over recent years?

Well for a start, I don’t think that the retail industry has moved so fast as it has in the last eighteen months, and I don’t think it’ll ever slow down again! Disruption is coming from all angles, not just impacting the way things are sold but also the way things are delivered and returned.

Customers are more demanding, and the established rules have shifted – we’re now digital customers. We’re online savvy, with mobiles in hand, and with expectations so high that if retailers can’t deliver the right experience at the right time, alternatives are a click away. What this means is that consumers are no longer brand loyal.

What are your thoughts on the digital vs. physical retail debate?

The bricks and mortar store is very much not dead. While in the last 15 to 20 years, typically most retailers haven’t really invested IT budget in the physical store, they are fast realising that significant IT investment is now required in their shops to retain a competitive edge and customer loyalty. This is supported by a recent survey which reported that 51 per cent of today’s consumers now care more about the look, feel and design of a physical store than they did three years ago.

Shopping is now no longer about just ‘buying things’ - it is about the whole experience, whether that be in a physical store or a shopping centre/mall. It’s now a leisure destination rather than just somewhere to shop. We expect to be entertained, and as such ‘retailtainment’ has been coined as the new buzz word.

Of course, these changes are opening up new opportunities, but the key thing is to move as quickly, if not quicker, than the market. Otherwise, customers are left with an experience that may have been acceptable a few years ago, but now fall short.

What do you expect to impact retailers in the near future?

Expectations of delivering a digital customer experience is the driving force behind a lot of the industry changes, but managing these changes at the same time as reducing operational costs is another challenge in itself.

For all businesses, digital transformation will be a priority, but for retailers specifically it’s an absolute necessity for survival. In the next year we’ll see increasingly more stores attempting to deliver richer and more personalised experiences and messaging in store, replicating what they already do online.

But it is a challenge as they need to integrate data which has been traditionally kept in silos, to give them the 360 degree view and insight of their customers so that they can deliver seamless personalised experiences, however and wherever the customer engages with them.

We’ll also see employees mobilised, with technology in their hands (or as wearables) that puts information at their fingertips. Such technology enables brands to provide more personalised customer service, but also allows them to collaborate more easily with their colleagues across the store estate and of course back in HQ.

Why should customers visit Alexander Black during Innovation 2017?

It’s a great opportunity to experience, in a true retail setting, how technology can deliver digital transformation for customers, sales associates and for the whole organisation.

Here’s a taster of what you’ll be able to see and experience:

  • the power and impact of 4K digital content on individual screens or in an innovative multi-dimensional Art Wall setting
  • how RFID is more than just inventory management and can drive customer experience and engagement
  • how deploying typical HQ collaboration tools onto mobile devices in the hands of the sales associates can drive operational efficiency and enable easier collaboration

And I would still recommend a visit even if you’re not in the retail sector, as many of the solutions would be equally appropriate in a car showroom, or an airport or airline lounge for example. Or join us as a digital customer to both experience and enjoy what digital transformation could do for your favourite stores!

Our Alexander Black showcase will be open for business throughout Innovation 2017 on 12 and 13 June. We’ll be running regular tours, allowing you to play with the technology that can truly impact your business. Find out more about Innovation 2017 on our event website.