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Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the year, we will explore the hot four trends (Omniexperience, Smart Shopping, Engagement, and Activism) showcased in 2019 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

In today’s blog, we will explore Trend #2: Smart Shopping.


Trend #1: Omniexperience

Smart shopping often is driven by smart use of technology and an integrated omnichannel experience. Simplicity is a key driver for saving time. In retail, it means a simple and convenient offer; often with technology as an enabler. Focus is on smart in-store solutions that make the buying decision simpler, easier, and faster. Optimizing the layout of the store, convenient delivery options, subscription plans, fast check-out, easy store navigation and fast, on-the-go food are just a few examples of how retailers and brands can make shopping smarter for customers.

More Mall (Alibaba), China

Last April, Alibaba opened its first brick-and-mortar shopping mall in Hangzhou. The mall, ‘More Mall’ or ‘Alimall,’ is where the tech company is testing its future vision of physical retail. Here, technology is not a gimmick, but provides more convenience and experience to stimulate O2O commerce (online to offline). A few concepts in the mall include the first Hema concept store, Tmall Genie, and the Guess AI store. In these stores, Alibaba encourages shopping with technology on a whole new level. It’s used to surprise, engage, play and create product transparency and faster shopping. The only ways to pay are via AliPay or cash. The Chinese are on their way to a cashless society and cards are no longer accepted. After payment, the customer journey continues via phone; content and media creation are continuous; influencers vlog constantly and have live conversations with customers and employees to reveal more about experiences and products. At Alibaba, the customer journey never ends.

The Hema store from Alibaba within the More Mall exemplifies the growing O2O business model in China. Choosing online purchases is possible in-store. Customers get their shopping list from a central terminal. As soon as they have chosen their order, it is placed on the conveyor belt system in the store. The orders go to the distribution hub to be completed and shipped. The store is more than a supermarket, it’s experience alongside convenience, as well as a place to dine or buy a meal on the go.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

This mall shows what retail can be: online-offline merged, as well as fun alongside convenience. Alibaba shows that future malls will be more than bricks and mortar but will test new innovations and technologies in a real consumer environment, replace cards and cash and create experiences, relevant, shared content, memorable moments and lifetime engagement – not just transactions.

Amazon Go, U.S.A.

Amazon broke into bricks and mortar this year with the first-of-its-kind concept Amazon Go near the company headquarters in Seattle. The innovative idea was to design a store where you “just walk out,” a cashless experience enabled by the store app and no check-out lines. The store lets consumers simply pick up items they want and walk out.

Customers simply scan the app as they enter, then proceed to pick up items they desire. Amazon’s app then registers which product they picked up and adds it to their cart using “just walk out” technology. When the customer finishes shopping and walks out, the total amount is charged to their Amazon account. The store offers a variety of food and grocery products, including ready-to-eat meals and snacks, as well as bread, milk, cheese, chocolate and more.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

Amazon has completely reinvented the experience and created a unique retail store. This technology will be replicated moving forward and we will be seeing more of this style format in years to come. Consumers expect and demand a quick and seamless experience in stores. Amazon Go delivers just that.

Spyce, U.S.A.

Spyce is the world’s first restaurant featuring a completely robotic kitchen that cooks complex, nutritious, tasty meals. Located in Boston, the restaurant is the brainchild of four M.I.T. graduates based on a vision of cooking affordable, healthy food, robotically.

The restaurant offers meal bowls at low prices, starting at $7.50, prepared in an automated kitchen using fresh ingredients. Every step of the process, from mixing ingredients to cooking and serving, is automated. This allows for quick cooking—meals are prepared in under three minutes.

The restaurant features top culinary talent, as well as its fully automated kitchen, with Michelin Star Chef Daniel Boulud serving as culinary director. Boulud provides menu direction along with Sam Benson, executive chef; together they decide the menu, do the tasting and train the staff on how to enhance the customer experience.

J.C. Williams Group Expert Comment:

In an age when labor wages are rising, retailers are investing in automated enhancements to improve the customer experience, while reducing labor costs. Robots and AI are entering every industry to bring more efficiency to the process. Spyce is one of the leaders in benchmarking industry standards. Balancing robotics with culinary excellence can be tough, but the enterprise is succeeding in every way.

J.C. Williams Group’s Final Word

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2019 Global Retail Trends & Innovations, but they already begin to illustrate that consumers will look for convenience in the purchasing experience and solutions that both optimize and save time. We at J. C. Williams Group expect to see more innovation in line with this trend as 2019 progresses.

See 8 MORE Smart Shopping concepts and more in 2019 Global Retail Trends & Innovations! Download your free copy now!

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