Retail innovation is often credited to the little guys—quirky companies and specialised startups that invent technologies to disrupt an industry. However, several larger brands that have adopted a forward-thinking strategy are leveraging new technologies to enhance the shopper experience and establish a new paradigm in customer service. Armed with a deep understanding of their consumer base and a financial incentive to exceed shopper’s expectations, these big brands can lead the charge towards long-lasting improvements in the retail sector.
Target has continuously provided best-in-class experiences for its consumers. This past year has been no different—several of the brand’s in-house initiatives spotlight technologies that enhance the shopper experience. At 25 stores in Los Angeles, Target has debuted LA25, a technology-powered customer service initiative that touches upon everything from signage to beacon technology to help associates serve customers.
On a collaborative front, Target is partnering with nimble tech startups to offer highly personalised services for shoppers. Its Minneapolis locations use rapid delivery service Instacart to offer grocery delivery in under one hour, and, for a new concept store experience, Target has partnered with accelerator TechStars to prototype customer-serving robots.
Starbucks knows that many of its customers are on the run; as a result, it is testing several technologies to speed up the ordering process for consumers. Most notoriously, the company rolled out mobile ordering nationwide earlier this year, and in certain areas it also offers mobile delivery. For in-store purchases, the retailer is piloting an “espresso shot” ordering system where customers place their order at the door and walk to the counter to pick up their drink.
For customers who aren’t in a rush, Starbucks is developing programs that connect individuals over coffee. The brand works with ride-sharing app Lyft to offer loyalty points to riders who connect with their drivers, and has also partnered with connection platform Match.com to offer a ‘Meet At Starbucks’ date suggestion.
Wellness retailer Walgreens is committed to helping shoppers stay healthy—a commitment that the company plans to keep with the help of improved technologies. For sick customers stuck in bed, Walgreens has entered a partnership with Postmates to offer its entire store catalog for on-demand delivery at over 600 locations. And for those recovering, Walgreens has customised its app to suggest smart purchases the data-driven platforms personally recommends items as shoppers walk through the store. For example, users who recently ordered tissues and cold medicine for delivery may receive discounts on nose spray and vitamin C tablets during their next store visit.
For longer-term wellness, Walgreen’s Balance Rewards program is the first loyalty program to award points not only for purchases and retail actions, but also for healthy living. Users can connect their wearables, such as a Jawbone or Fitbit, and earn points based on their fitness activity. To further promote healthy living, the retailer has also partnered with WebMD to offer virtual wellness coaching that helps participants manage nutrition, exercise and emotional health.
157-year-old legacy brand Macy’s has adapted its retail processes for today’s generation of millennial consumers. The brand’s New York flagship has transformed its lower level into a millennial retail hub; named “One Below,” the space features wearables, customizable accessories and 3D printing. Macy’s has also partnered with a fashion tech startup Nineteenth Amendment to expose its newest shoppers to up-and-coming independent designers, both online and through in-store displays.
Macy’s is also innovating ways to streamline the shopping process. With help from retail technologists at Hointer, Macy’s has developed a shopping system where customers can scan products on their shopping floor and have them delivered directly to the fitting room via robotic inventory system. Additionally, at its newest ‘Macy’s Backstage’ discount stores, Macy’s will offer mobile checkout to expedite the payment process for shoppers in a hurry.