Andrew Busby, Retail Technology editor-at-large and founder of retail analysts Retail Reflections, reports back from the Accenture Customer Information Network (ACIN) innovation centre in Milan
As “a think tank at the intersection of business and technology, with a passion around fashion, retail and consumer goods”, the opportunity to visit the ACIN in Milan was clearly not to be missed.
Held on the anniversary of its opening, this was to be a glimpse into what the future might look like for both retailers and consumers.
A visit to a nearby ‘Supermarket of the Future’ – a partnership between Coop Italia
- was more intriguing than enlightening with the mix of digital with physical appearing to be a work in progress. Digital screens above the fresh and chilled cabinets, where product information was displayed automatically as you pointed to an item, were largely ignored by customers and had no integration with inventory.
However, similar work with Milan based luxury fashion retailer Larusmiani
showed the benefits of using technology to augment the customer journey, introducing digital into a store in a value-added unobtrusive manner.
Intelligent use of the integration between NFC tagging with interactive digital screens and a virtual changing room together with the opportunity to personalise prior to payment, meant that the customer journey was enhanced rather than made more complex through technology.
Indeed, technology was also driving a different store feel and look. If this example is typical then we should expect fashion stores of the future to be smaller, digital and interactive - a trend we’re already beginning to see through the likes of Zara and Pro:Direct with digitally enhanced experiences rather than technology for the sake of it.
Merging the digital with the physical so that the distinction becomes merged into one experience appears to be how best to exploit new digital technologies especially as, according to Accenture, “94% of luxury item shoppers do online research before going into a store”.
Whether it be the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect previously disparate entities in order to create the connected bar of the future or artificial intelligence in the home to “take things off the thinking list”, it would seem that technology is set to become more and more pervasive in the lives of consumers.