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New demands on old stores

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The retail model of the future will be a different experience from today. Advances in technology could improve relationships between the customer and retailer, but says PIETER ENGELBRECHT, the retailer needs to adapt to these changes.

The retail model of the future will be a radically different experience from today, largely driven by the changing shopping demands of the younger hyper-connected consumer. Bricks-and-mortar retailing will remain to be a very significant part in retail, however the lines between channels will erode at the benefit of both the customer and the business. Advances in technology will significantly improve the relationships between retailers and customers, much the way analytics is already doing to online shopping.

Real opportunity lies in responding to this change, focusing on delivering a truly integrated and seamless omni-channel experience. The future of retail is an exciting one, and over the next few years we expect to see a number of key developments taking place in stores around the globe:

The emergence of the smart personal shopper

Online retail will continue to exist for customers who want to buy a specific product and have it delivered to their home. But those who enter a store do so to learn, to view and feel items and to speak to a person. As the physical environment of a store changes, communication barriers between customers and employees such as counters will be removed, enabling staff to provide a more personalised experience.

Mobile technology will revolutionise the sales process and experience. Tomorrow’s retail staff will be unleashed from the sale counter, and given the equipment to connect with customers across the entire store, offering a more consultative approach. In fashion retail for example, assistants will be able to show customers a range of outfits and styles a particular item could work with.

With a real time view of stock and availability, they will be far more capable of closing sales, only recommending items that are both in stock and in size, whilst offering further choice and reducing wait time for shoppers.

The rise of immersive engagement

Walking past a store, a customer’s phone buzzes, offering them to try on the same pair of jeans they saved in their online basket a few days ago. Enticing them in, as they’ve already shopped online, for today only they will get an additional 10% off all purchases.

Location-aware technology will identify customers’ mobile devices, enabling upsell and cross-sell offers based not just on what they’re viewing, but also what they’ve purchased before. As customers roam the store, engagement programmes will link with in-store beacons to dynamically offer up suggestions at various points along the store path.

Here, the loyalty programme and the new found freedom of the retail assistant will combine and, with a shared purchase history, the best retailers will enable assistants to make personal style recommendations, based on customer preference and items they may already own.

Experiences will extend loyalty beyond purchases too, offering experience enhancements such as VIP parking spots when customers approach retail stores, and recognising regular customers on entry.

The end of cash and plastic

Part of matching the new connected consumers’ expectations will be delivering a seamless, frictionless payment experience, removing any barriers slowing down the speed of a retail sale. Eliminating queues from stores, roaming staff, now empowered by mobile technology will be able to transact with customers in seconds, as shoppers keep focus on the purchase experience rather than the cost.

One of the most important factors to consumers, payment security requires additional compliance with higher security standards, ensuring consumers are protected from fraudulent activity and avoiding the irreparable reputational damage and financial costs associated with a breach in payment security for the retailer.

This adoption of mobile, digital payments will further enable retailers to offer things like on-demand delivery options, where products can be delivered straight to the customer’s home or even car.

For retail businesses, this will also likely lead to higher revenues. Just as the shift from cash to plastic showed consumers are willing to spend more when not parting with cash, so too will sales be further strengthened by further dissociation from the traditional bank instrument – the card.

The road to the future

These hyper-connected consumers already in the marketplace have a rapidly growing share of spending power. This always-on generation demand things like fast internet access and a more seamless, digital experience they’re already getting from other services.

While new innovations are being tested and tried in today’s market, much of this development is stifled by existing and fragmented existing IT infrastructure, negatively impacting the customer experience, and slowing the consumer adoption of new technologies that could help drive the retail business forward.

Because of this, retailers are already starting on the back foot. To build a successful platform for innovation across multiple channels, they must ensure the technological needs of today’s customers are fully met, otherwise they face being left in the dust. Focus on enriching the customer experience immediately, and set the stage for rapid innovation in the coming years.

* Pieter Engelbrecht, regional manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at Aruba Networks

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Smash hits the
Nintendo Switch

Super Smash Bros. delivers what the fans wanted in the latest “Ultimate” instalment, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the latest addition to the popular Nintendo Smash series, has landed on the Nintendo Switch with a bang, selling 5-million copies in the first week of its release. The game has been long-anticipated since the console’s release, as many fans consider iy to be a Nintendo staple. And the wait was well worth it.

It features 74 playable fighters, 108 stages, almost 1300 Spirit characters to collect while playing, and a single-player Adventure mode that took about three days (or 28 hours) of gameplay to complete. The game offers far more gameplay than its predecessors, making it the Smash game that gives its players the best bang for their buck.

For those new to the game, the goal is to fight opponents and build up their damage score (draining their health) to knock them off the stage eventually. This makes the game seem chaotic, as many players jump around the platforms as if they were on quicksand, in order to avoid being hit by the other players.

It also services two kinds of players: the competitive and the casual.

Competitive players can be matched on the online service by skill ranking to enjoy playing with similarly high-skilled opponents. This is especially important in e-sports training for the game, and for players wanting to master combos against other human players. The casual gamer is also catered for, with eight-player chaos and button-mashing to see who comes out luckiest. This segment is also important for those wanting to learn how to play.

Training mode is also a place to go for those learning to play. It offers “CPU” players that are graded by intensity to train as a single player to learn a character’s moves, combos and general fighting style. More challenging CPU players can also be used by competitive players to train when there isn’t a Wi-Fi connection available.

Direct Play features in this game, allowing two players with two Switch consoles to play against each other over a direct connection – no Wi-Fi needed. This is especially useful to those who want to have a social gaming element on the go, similar to that of the cable connector of the Gameboy.

Click here to read Bryan Turner review of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

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Win Funko Fortnite in Vinyl

Gadget and Gammatek have nine Funko Fortnite figurines to give away.

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A Funko Pop figurine based on a character set is indicative of reaching the heights of pop culture. It is no surprise, then, that the world’s biggest online game, Fortnite, has its own line of Funko Pop figurines. The Funkos are modeled on the characters in game, including Drift, Ragnarok, Dark Vanguard, Volar, Tracera Ops, and Sparkle Specialist.

Now, local Funko distributor Gammatek has released the Fortnite figurines in South Africa. To celebrate, Gadget and Gammatek are giving away a set of three Funko Fortnite figurines to each of three readers (9 figurines in total). To enter, first click on your favourite Funko Pop on the next page and post the Tweet that appears. Then, follow Gadget on Twitter.

You can put the tweet in your own words, but entries must have the competition’s hashtag (#FunkoFortnite) and mention @GadgetZA to be considered valid.

Click here to select the Funko Fortnite character you want to tweet.

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