Growing your business

In Store Retail Technology: Marketing, Payments, and Stock

21 July 2017
6 minute read

Whether it’s stock, parcel pick up, online sales, or using new payment methods to complete transactions, technology has changed the way that retailers operate and has no sign of stopping. And the key impact of this development is that modern consumers now hold a certain expectation for their instore experience.

In a recent interview with Asian Trader magazine, Joanne Denney-Finch, CEO of the Institute of Grocery Distribution, said: “a lot of experimentation is going on with technology; for example, robots to do the cleaning, scanning the shelves and going back and stocking replenishments. They are also being used to meet and greet customers.”

The expectations of the modern consumer probably don’t quite stretch to shaking hands with a robot at the door, but certainly looking for the likes of card terminals, contactless payments, online information and diverse products when they shop.

In this article, we explore three areas of retail digitisation – marketing, payments, and stock.

Digital Screens

Over the past decade, digital screens have secured their spot as one of the most in demand products in new retail technology. These are digital panels equipped with video, still image, or interactive content that you can display anywhere in your store; from immersive aisle-side advertisements, to an engaging alternative to a window display. And even on their own they can increase sales by as much a 15%.

The screens, which are available from a variety of providers, are incredibly versatile and feature in all types of retailers, first appearing in high-end department stores they are now affordable for high-street shops too. They can provide instant onsite messaging for your business, and engage with customers even out of opening hours.

A lot of big brands, such as Nike and Joules, are using them in conjunction with iPads, tablets, and even cameras too. This allows the sales assistant or customer to access products through multiple touchpoints; using the equipment to track stock, compare products, or streamline the sales process. With the use of cameras, the screens can act as an interactive source of marketing as well, and engage with customers in a dynamic and immersive manner.

“A few summers ago we ran a competition using the screens in our front facing windows,” said Luke, Assistant Manager at Lyle & Scott, Carnaby Street. “They had cameras installed which picked up on passers-by and invited them to practice their best golf swing. It always gathered a good crowd, competing on our virtual golf course - and the winner won a free polo shirt too!”

In March, retail-tech providers Hi! Street Digital Media announced that they would be bringing their digital screen technology into 20 premium independent stores, free of charge, to be used for marketing purposes. During this trial period, the stores recorded an average sales uplift of 15% - so it’s no wonder they’re so in demand!

Online Presence

An area of digital marketing that most retailers will be familiar with, is their online presence. Including everything from your website and company blog, to social media channels, online reviews, email marketing, and where you appear in Google search results. There is a wealth of opportunity for your retail business if these platforms are well utilised, enabling you to reach new audiences and communicate easily with your customers.

Earlier this year, we spoke to over 100 small business owners about how they’re currently representing their businesses online. We found that the majority see the most online opportunity in improving their website and social media channels; primarily to increase sales (69%) but shortly followed by the opportunity to increase brand awareness and reach out directly to their target audiences (both at 62% ). Read the full report to learn more about our findings and how to improve your business’ online presence.

Beacon Technology

You may already have heard of location based advertising – more and more retailers are using that technology to tailor and serve paid advertisements to appear in search engine results when the user is searching near to your store – but recent developments, known as beacon technology, take this concept a step further.

Beacon technology uses Bluetooth sensors to release information, such as product details or offers, to nearby customers. The customers require an enabled smartphone app which, when present within a marked area of the beacon (inside a shopping mall where your store is based for example), will receive the set data.

Waitrose trialled this tech in their Swindon store, and used the Bluetooth beacons to transmit promotions, coupons, and recommendations to customers as they walked down relevant aisles.

It sounds like a more advanced idea in retail digitisation, but findings in Mintel’s 2017 Consumer Trends report states that in the UK 29% of millennials would actually be quite happy to share their real-time location with brands in exchange for nearby offers.

Card Terminals

These days, customers are less likely to be carrying cash when they shop. In fact, cards now account for more than half of all retail purchases! With research in this year’s Consumer Trends report revealing that 30% of UK consumers already feel comfortable about the potential for a completely cashless society in the near future.

Aligning this growing consumer habit with the performance of independent retailers, Steve O’Neill, Group Marketing Director at PayPoint, states that “25% of corner shops say limited access to advanced technology is the biggest challenge to delivering a good customer experience”, according to recent research by PayPoint.

To beat this challenge and remain competitive, it’s important that you equip your retail business with reliable, recognisable card terminals to ensure a seamless customer experience – and likely encourage more sales too!

Contactless Payments

Since the first UK contactless card transaction back in 2007, the use of this effortless payment method has boomed. Almost £4m was spent on contactless cards in April 2017 alone, and a recent report by Payments UK even suggests that the use of contactless cards will take over cash as Britain’s most frequently used payment method by 2018.

Contactless payments are widely perceived as a more convenient way to shop, with an ease of payment that may lead to a greater number of impulse purchases too. Mintel’s Consumer Trends report suggests that “this new cashless fluidity and flexibility should also empower smaller merchants, provide greater efficiency and security by eradicating cashing-up and make pop-ups safer and more practical to run” too.

Anna Leach, Shift Manager at dessert snack stand Cocomacs in Birmingham says “our stand is set up in a very busy station with people constantly coming and going, so it’s essential for us to make things as quick and simple as possible when customers are buying our products. Being able to accept contactless payments has played a huge part in this, especially during our busier periods.”

Although more than 60% of staffed card terminals in shops already accept contactless payment, if your business doesn’t yet have access to one, you can request a contactless enabled terminal from your card service provider.

Nowadays, consumers don’t even need to carry their credit/debit card when they shop! As, thanks to the ever-growing popularity of near-field communication (NFC), mobile phone apps like Apple Pay and Zapper are able making cashless payments even simpler. With this technology, consumers can link their credit/debit cards or online payment accounts to their phones, and simply tap them on the card machines to pay.

Innovating a step further, Vodafone has recently announced a partnership with PayPal to allow users with Android devices to make contactless payments from their PayPal account even when the phone is switched off or out of battery. This advancement has been achieved by embedding NFC technology into the phone’s SIM card rather than the handset.

Electronic Point Of Sale (EPoS) Systems

EPoS systems are computerised systems, made up of both hardware and software, that are designed to help retailers run their businesses more efficiently. They do this either by being integrated within or used wholly as a business’ till point, and digitally managing stock levels and customer transactions with real-time data.

It will depend on which model of EPoS you’re looking at, but some systems will also allow owners to set up alerts to notify them when stock is low, automate purchase orders, and keep records of customer purchase history. It’s a great way to manage inventory, and structure customer data.

“We ask all our customers for a postcode and email address at the point of purchase, even if they’re already on the system,” says Hannah Wiggins, Supervisor at Joules, St Albans. “Through our EPoS system, these details link all their purchases back to them, so they can track what they buy and we can use their recorded purchase history to send them tailored email promotions too.”

As well as retail businesses, many restaurants are also using EPoS systems to streamline their ordering process too. This allows waiters to transmit orders directly to the kitchen as they record them in handheld devices; when the order is ready, the waiter will then receive a notification on the device. And throughout the whole process, the manager will be able to oversee the entire progression through the same system.

But this smart tech doesn’t come without a price tag and EPoS systems, whilst becoming more common, are still a significant investment. So, if you are implementing EPoS into your business, make sure to shop around with different suppliers and make sure you find both the best deal, and the best requirements for your business.

Shelf Scanning

Shelf scanning tools and programmes are at a notably higher level of advancement in retail tech. This works with image recognition, and using it to scan shelves and track where stock replenishment is needed.

“This technology is being used by sales and merchandising staff to provide highly accurate shelf insights, and as an alternative to manual store audits that can be costly, time consuming and prone to human error,” says Neil Gowing, EMEA managing director at technology company Trax.

In 2015, Simbe Robotics implemented this tech into the world’s first fully autonomous shelf auditing robot, named Tally. Using cameras and vision processing software, the robot could capture data on up to 20,000 products per hour and with this could determine not only missing products, but those facing the wrong direction or in the wrong place too.

Since then, several developers have brought out new editions of shelf scanning bots; including Shelfie, and AuRoSS which has been trialled in libraries in Singapore.

As trends in retail technology continue to develop, stay in the know by following blogs and outlets such as Retail Times and Retail Week. And keep an eye out for next year’s Retail Business Technology Expo at Olympia, London from the 2nd to 3rd May 2018.


Tackling Tech In The Retail Sphere - Asian Trader, June 2017

History of Cards – The UK Cards Association

Contactless Statistics - The UK Cards Association

Cash No Longer King As Contactless Payments Soar in UK Stores – The Guardian

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