Autonomous Retail and Staff-Enhanced Customer Experience Trends

Clare Montgomery
Retail Insight by Clare Montgomery Head of Operations 21/12/2021

CADS attended the Retail Technology Innovation Awards round table discussion with retailers, members of the judging panel where the latest trends in retail were explored


Autonomous Retail and Customer Experience

Debating the latest trends in retail

The main event was a lively debate about the latest trends in retail reflecting the award entries, followed by RTIH’s Scott Thompson announcing the Award winners.

CADS and StoreSpace sponsored the Bricks & Mortar Innovation category which was looking for the best examples retailers using technology to create thriving physical spaces. With note given to retailers who were able to create a cohesive experience between physical and digital and reducing friction in the customer journey offering.

The discussion, chaired by Simon Curtis CCO of PMC, circulated around two key topics these were the opportunity and challenges of autonomous checkouts and the importance of creating an engaging in-store experience.

Image: LIFVS

Reducing costs with autonomous checkouts

Of the Bricks & Mortar Innovation shortlisted retailers three entries offered autonomous shopping solutions. These included the ultimate winner Swedish unmanned 24-hour grocery stores Lifvs providing convenience retailing in remote communities using old shipping containers. Using an app to access the container, customers can scan and pay for their groceries using their mobile phones.

Lifvs’ uses an electronic labelling system (ELS) from Pricer Plaza to support the low cost business model with dynamic pricing, stock assortment recommendations and replenishment management.


Technology adoption requires in store staff support

However while autonomous shopping can reduce the cost of staffing hours, not all customers are ready to adopt the technology. And shop staff can be critical in reducing the friction of the experience guiding customers through the process and helping them understand how and when they will be charged.

While the psychology of human behaviour together with shop staff and technology is being used to minimise theft.

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Staff still critical in delivering a great experience

Technology in retail

It was however interesting that a discussion about technology in retail kept returning to the importance of shop staff in delivering a great experience. And it is this great experience that will encourage customers to continue visiting physical stores.

Asda was nominated for its Stevenage Concept Store where a range of technologies are being tested to see how they are helping their staff deliver a better experience for customers. These include 3D holograms showcasing products or two-way communication points located in-aisle connecting customers to staff with headsets ready to answer immediate questions.

Image: Asda Stevenage concept store

Interactive technology at Asda's Stevenage Concept Store
Situ Live at Westfield shopping centre

Creating an immersive memorable experience

At the other end of the scale is Situ Live at Westfield Shopping Centre where staff create a memorable experience encouraging customers to use the luxury brands on offer. And it is all about the experience because no sales take place in store, customers are directed online to the brand’s own website to make a purchase. Is this the future of the shopping mall or department store?

Image: Situ Live at Westfield shopping centre

Shopping experience is paramount

As the Bricks & Mortar category shortlist demonstrates that if customers are venturing out to shop, the experience can be a defining factor. Whether that experience is frictionless and technology-led or one-based on an engaging human interaction, so long as the retailer puts the customer at the heart of their offer, a combination of the two is likely to win through.

Image: Interactive mirror at Situ Live

VAHA interactive fitness mirror at Situ Live in London's Westfield shopping centre

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