Net-A-Porter is an online luxury retailer that has shaped its technology around consumer insights. Aware of the importance of physicality to consumers, the firm publishes a monthly magazine and developed an app allowing customers to ‘shop the magazine’. A simple scan enables customers to browse and buy products online, exemplifying how technology can truly make the shopping experience seamless. Innovative ways of integrating retail and technology is also evident in the household goods industry. For instance, Ikea’s augmented reality app allows consumers to photograph their living space and place any piece of Ikea furniture in the space.
This situation is comparable to the checking-in process in hotels, which is now increasingly by-passed by technology via an online check-in. In the hospitality industry, spaces and resources used to maintain processes now driven by technology will instead be used to deliver higher quality experiences and better service. Thanks to technology, similar principles will profoundly transform the retail industry in the next 10 years, enabling retailers to focus human resources on building qualitative experiences.
How an online community can teleport itself into reality
Gouten points out another strong trend “there is a trend in the US and the UK today where E-business companies open shops, because you need to find a place to talk to your clients… and your users”. Amazon’s decision to open its first physical bookstore in 2016 is a reminder of the importance of a human touch in any retail experience. Using physical stores as product pickup stations will ease Amazon’s distribution burden while offering a spot for consumers to try Amazon products such as the ‘kindle’ before purchase . The online juggernaut stepping into the ‘real world’ shows that a human touch is necessary in any retail experience, reinforcing Kim’s opinion that “…online retail can’t really destroy the physical retail world”. Instead, the keyword for both offline and online retailers should be ‘integration’.
Jerome De Baecque, the Director of Creative Studio and Digital Agency Spinifex Group, points out “at the end of the day, it’s about making the experience fun and enjoyable”. Technology will help smooth the bumps in the customer journey, but will never replace a meaningful human interaction.