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Cutting Through the Noise: Here's How to Deliver the Future of Retail

May 05, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered a continuous stream of commentary around the future of retail. With confusion comes speculation, and with speculation comes a lot of unhelpful guidance.

Rather than add to the noise of the last few weeks, we have been working to innovate real solutions for our clients. We've brought together experts from our retail, commerce and connected experience functions to design a series of innovations that you can build into your businesses now. From data solutions to store design, loyalty schemes to gesture control, we have been working on a new approach to retail, not just for a post-COVID world, but for the future we’ve been anticipating all along.

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These aren’t new concepts; we’ve been talking to brands about these innovations for years, but COVID has forced clients to take more notice and to accelerate towards these solutions faster. We’d still be talking about these concepts outside of the COVID context.
Lindsey Harris, VP Experience Design, Valtech

We’re combining our expertise in emerging technologies with a wealth of experience in working with the leading global brands across the retail, beauty and luxury sectors. 

Our ideas centre around a combined connected experience, where digital data influences physical store design and where customer insights trigger real time changes to in-store fixtures to lead to better sales figures.

We’re looking at how we can use the data from RFID tagging for sharper inventory tasks (there are robotics now that travel around the entire store and perform RFID inventory checks with greater than 95% accuracy). We’re looking at how we can use weather feeds that allow you to change what you’re displaying in your windows based on what’s more likely to sell tomorrow. We can look at trend data from social feeds and use trend APIs that give us insight into what customers want this week.

We have historical point of sale (POS) and ecommerce data that we can run machine learning on to unearth details about the most popular product combinations. Then we can use APIs and MACH technologies to bubble it all up to systems that allow us to navigate the physical store in a novel way on a daily basis. 

We’re talking about flexible fixtures that can move around the store based on the machine learning recommendations and 3D rendering of store floor plans to enable the store manager to have a total view of what’s going on and make data driven decisions. 

We’re experimenting with "lay down tables" and voice commands and better enabling store assistants to deliver a higher level of service with digital tools.

Take Back Control and Snatch Opportunity From a Crisis

Retailers today need to consider the omni-channel, full-body experience for their consumers, and thanks to advancements in new digital technologies and spurred on by the shift in customer behaviours and expectations, there are a myriad of options open to them. There are opportunities to innovate and improve the customer experience across every touchpoint of the journey, from the lead up to a visit, to the in-store experience and the post-visit nurture. 


The complexity comes when brands start to consider how to integrate these new innovations and standards into their existing set up. It starts to look expensive, complicated and intimidating, and we all know that this isn’t the time for the board to be signing off on major investments. But all is definitely not lost.

That integrated part is what sets us apart from all of the agencies that set out to solve one small thing. Our work is in combing these concepts and solutions into something that actually works end-to-end for our customers.

Pascal Lagarde, Commerce Director, Valtech

The concept of the dynamic store isn’t something that can be achieved overnight, but there are real possibilities for you to begin to integrate some of these changes into your operations over the coming days and weeks. Let us help!

The COVID scenario has flipped consumer sentiment around things like touchscreens (on the way out) to gesture controls, voice controls or BYOD (bring your own device). Let’s think about what social distancing is going to mean for queuing (check out our solution for that: Valtech Attend) or how chatbots can be a simple way to deal with an influx of online traffic requests. These are things that we can start thinking about now and designing prototypes and proof of concepts to test and learn from.

The reality is that no one is really thinking about MVPs or scaling at the moment, but it is vital to use this time of uncertainty to out-innovate the competition. It is also important to preserve cash, which is why our recommendation right now is to prove digital experiences and technology with smaller prototyping (small chunks we can do in a couple of days to a week) and proof of concepts (a couple of weeks to a month). Starting small, nimble and inexpensive can test whether innovative ideas work, and then they can be scaled when it makes sense. 

Prototypes or proof of concepts (POCs) are bite sized morsels of goodness that cost less, take less time and can give a brand a jump on the competition.
Jeremy Duimstra SVP Connected Experiences, Valtech

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We are running co-creation ideation sessions with our clients from across the retail, beauty and luxury sectors right now. We’re using a tool chest of experience to deliver services from research and evaluation to customer journey mapping, experience and technology strategy and we’re looking at the information architecture and building wireframes and designs to support the prototyping and testing phases.  

We have an internal innovation program that combines multiple streams of thinking from across our organisation. From the dynamic store concept to VR/AR/MR and social commerce, and from voice interfaces to IoT and AI personalisation. That means that when clients engage with us, they get the benefit of insights from across multiple streams.

augmented reality

People go straight into future-state technology thinking. What’s really interesting is what’s going to happen in the next two-three years, and that’s what we can deliver on now.
Matt Webb, European CTO, Valtech

We’re running multiple ideation sessions (two hour to half-day sessions) that uncover incredible and actionable insights and are done completely virtually with great tools like Miro that are giving clients a ton of usable deliverables really quickly. 

All of these sessions are springing up small ideas that will become larger entities a year from now when the pandemic starts to fade. These sessions can show you what the power of these ideas can be when the world starts to return to normal. 

We urge you to use this time to do something, because your competitors definitely are. Take advantage of the virtual scenario we find ourselves in; it is much easier to get 20 people in a "room" than it used to be. Set up a session with us to see what we can come up with for your brand, whether you’re in retail or financial services, healthcare or manufacturing, these learnings are sector agnostic. 

Give us two hours to listen to your challenges, prioritise short-term goals and sketch out some concepts that could be really transformative for your brand in the coming weeks, months and longer term too. We’re not just helping you to survive in this new world we find ourselves in, we’re passionate about taking you to a new level entirely.

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