Although the next few years are unlikely to bring anything radically new to the world of local retail shopping, noticeable and comprehensive transformations will take place as virtual shops and their physical counterparts increasingly merge.

The technology that has been powering the online shopping experience for years is now beginning to replace the old-fashioned processes that customers still go through in conventional stores. Along the way, the smartphone-enabled trends now reshaping our shopping experience will help bring the convenience, personalisation and social integration of web-based shopping to real-world stores. This will enable retailers to get to know their customers better so that they can provide shoppers with tailored products, services and advice.

For many years, retailing was a relatively straightforward exercise. Stores were the primary hub for the exchange of goods and for payment, and retailers generally controlled and directed the shopper through the process, usually on their terms. Not anymore. We are witnessing a retail revolution. It is not loud; it is not violent, but it is led by technology and will fundamentally change the way we shop for years to come.

Heralded by the growth in online shopping and now by the increasing use of smartphones to locate, research, buy and even pay for goods in the shopping journey, we are seeing the customer “take the wheel”, so to speak, from the retailer. The role of the store in a multi-channel, click ‘n’ collect environment is changing. Web-surfing customers often know more than store sales assistants, and divisions between shopping in the store, at home or even in the bathroom are becoming blurred and irrelevant for the shopper. In response, retailers – supported by technology – are having to do three things:

  1. Join up processes, systems and data across channels and with HQ to ensure the customer has the same shopping experience across all channels
  2. Engage with and respond to the shopper in a smartphone world in a way that is more web-based, more real-time, more personalised and more clued up about who the shopper is and what he or she wants
  3. Develop innovative retailing services that match the lifestyle, and not just the consumption needs, of the individual customer. After all, if retailers now have so much more information about customers, customers will expect improvements in return.

Craig Baty is the chief technology officer of Fujitsu Australia & New Zealand.