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© 2013 Google, Photo: James Morgenstern

John Lewis trials instore tech

By Retail Technology | Monday December 16 2013

The UK department store retailer showcases state-of-the-art shopping technology in its stores, to aid wayfinding, offer transactional tablets and provide charging points

John Lewis has today revealed it would trial three new technology developments in its department stores over the festive period that are all designed to improve the customer experience.

The UK retailer has a track record for piloting the latest technology in its stores, having installed electronic shelf-edge labels (ESLs) that could display quick response (QR) codes alongside product and pricing information in its Exeter store earlier this year.

In another retail first, John Lewis Oxford Street is the first department store in the world to be fully mapped by Google Street View. The retailer said its new service will be the largest of its kind, with over 500 panoramas, allowing customers enter the retailer’s flagship shop from street level, as well as navigate and virtually walk through the aisles.

The experience has been designed by virtual tour specialists Ideal Insight to help busy shoppers plan their trips and navigate their way around the seven-floor department store. While the first pilot tour showcases the magic and theatre of the flagship shop at Christmas, the trial could be rolled out to other branches in the next two years if it is successful.

Testing transactional tablets

This month John Lewis Cheadle, John Lewis Brent Cross and Peter Jones will also trial instore transactional tablets – enabling customers to skip the queues at the tills and make their purchases directly with the staff member (known as ‘Partners’ in John Lewis) who advised them. The tablets will be linked to the shop’s till systems, allowing customers to fully complete their purchase in the shop or arrange home delivery.

The retailer added that the tablets would give shoppers and Partners instant access to a range of product information, including customer ratings and reviews on johnlewis.com and expert Partner reviews. And the devices will be trialled in a number of departments including technology and white goods.

The Peter Jones and Watford shops are also involved in the final development of a trial of ChargeBox – a free-to-use mobile phone charging station, which provides 30 minutes of power for mobile phones, tablets and other devices. 

Power to shop for longer

The service is designed to allow customers to shop for longer without fear of falling out of touch with friends, family or the web. And, equipped with a variety of cables, the service enables shoppers to locate the correct one for their phone or tablet in order to connect their device and lock it safely inside an individual unit while they shop. After 30 minutes, charging stops and the device remains securely locked until the owner returns with the key to release it. 

Wall mounted units have been installed in both the audio and TV departments and free standing units are located next to the Place to Eat café area in both shops. If successful it is hoped ChargeBox will be installed in other John Lewis shops in summer 2014. 

Simon Russell, director of retail operations development at John Lewis, stated: “We intend to keep investing and innovating in our shops so that they remain compelling and hassle-free places for customers, offering multiple reasons to visit them. Partly this will see us use an increasing amount of technology to make shopping easier and offer more ‘in shop help’. But this is also about offering inspiring experiences, such as our recent catering partnership with Scandinavian café brand, Joe & the Juice.”

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