WIB @ Smart Retail Now

IMG_5144Smart Retail Now, a WIB, Ricoh and Cisco sponsored event has taken place on the 21st of March in Arese, Italy.

Smart Retail Now is the meeting point between start-ups, retailers, Mass Retail Channel operators that sell products/services to the consumers and innovative digital  technologies suppliers.  The invitation based event is a one day conference with moments of networking to interact with participants that range from Costa Cruises to Red Bull. Together with Ricoh and Cisco, WIB exhibited a WIB Premium Store during the event. The goal of the exhibitors and participants is to give consumers the same shopping experience online and in-store, transforming every interaction with the shopper in “engagement” boosted by digital technologies. This event focused on how retail operators introduce digital innovation in-store. The main topics in the program were IoT, beacon, omni-channel, chatbot, smart payments, digital signage – technologies that oIMG_5179ffer new channels of data collection and consumer engagement.

In the Agenda, WIB Co-Founder & Executive Director Alfonso Correale has addressed the audience on “Best practices for Costumer Experience and Engagement: from the executive strategies, how to carry out success projects availing of the technologies solution we have today”. The speeches highlighted the importance of bridging physical and digital channels.

Retailer market players have already understood that consumer experience in-store and on-line is battleground to win over a demanding clientele. The importance of start-ups in the retail industry is constantly increasing, as big players in the market, source technology from the recently born innovative tech-companies. The acquisition by Walmart last year at $3B was the largest ever for an on-line start-up. Walmart hopes that can help them gain competitiveness in the on-line market.


Start-ups: How tech is changing retail


The rise of e-commerce and software start-ups has significantly changed the Internet and business playground. High tech start-up firms that are internationally active have increasingly been receiving global attention from academics, the media and politicians in recent times. These firms are widely recognised as drivers of national economies, in that they play an important role in creating employment and in the redistribution of wealth. According to a study of CB Insight more than 130 start-ups have raised over $3B to help traditional retailers optimize physical stores. The birth-rate of start-ups is ever increasing to satisfy consumer needs that big companies cannot meet. A century ago, retailers focused more on store appearance as brand marketing strategy whilst logistics and merchandise had simple systems of control through issued receipts. Subsequently retailers began giving more importance to personalized experiences, with shopkeepers who would welcome in people from the neighbourhood in order to learn their customers’ individual needs and wants. Retail therapy was an activity shared by friends and family, word of mouth was a social force that transformed new products into must-haves and small shops into retail empires. Nowadays the point of sale is more distributed than ever before. Omni-channel retailing has converged online and offline shopping experiences, giving more options to the consumers:  shopping online with home delivery, shopping online and picking up at a store, shopping at a store and taking merchandise away, or shopping at a store and having it delivered to their home.

Today in our constantly connected world, a device is just a proxy for what really matters, getting to know your customers. Devices provide context, helping retailers learn what matters to a consumer in a particular location and at a particular time. At WIB we are proud to have noticed that CB Insight’s in depth research on next generation distribution methods has included us in a hand full of players that disrupt the mobile store and kiosk industry. We are highly driven by the mission of providing exciting, interactive and completely personalized shopping experiences and our IoT retail solutions that bridge online and physical sales, communication and interaction allow us to do so.

Next distribution method

Investors put their eyes on start-ups offering technologies for in-store use. These technologies range from store management platforms, to beacons in-store and marketing analytics, to wearables for store staff. According to CBInsight there have been a total of 170 deals worth almost $800M in 2016. Corporations are opening up their wallets with top players such as Walmart buying, Alibaba’s acquisition of southeast-Asia-based competitor Lazada, and Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club are also examples. When Walmart agreed to pay about $3B for the e-commerce start-up last September, it was the largest for an online start-up, but gave Wal-Mart access to’s innovative software that will help them to be more competitive with online rival Amazon.


My phone is my life


Can you imagine your life without your cell phone? I bet the first thing you do after waking up and before going to sleep is to look at your smartphone.

Nowadays, smartphones influence important parts of our lives and we rely on them more than on anything else. They represent our work, our social life and even ourselves. To sum it up, they are now part of our existence.

Millenials (18 to 34 years old), likely glued to their smartphones, are now the main target for most retail segments. They represent about 27% of the global population and they are the most important generational cohort for consumer spending growth, sourcing of employees and overall economic prospects. Retailers focus ever more on understanding and creating products and services that are appealing to millenials.

The findings of a Bank of America research about millennials are astonishing:

  • 39% of them interact more with their smartphones than they do with their parents, friends & co-workers
  • 59% have one more than one device with 24% owning three or more
  • 77% of millennials own smartphones and spend over two hours a day more using them compared to any other generation

Retailers are ever more investing in maximizing their visibility on the web. To be a competitive player on market, retailers need to study how to capture the eyes of people who are accustomed to search and buy online. The consumer trend is clear: “I want it cheap, I want something for free, I want it right now, with good values and high quality”. The fastest growing trend is “Buy online, Pick up instore”.

The desktop user experience has now been surpassed by mobile. For the millennials, the retailers Apps are now the equivalent of a business card. As a result, most retailers are investing on having a branded App. Apart from giving a better user experience to the consumer, retailers also benefit from having their app on someone’s smartphone. It’s the most personalized way to continuously engage the consumer. Nevertheless, a solid mobile strategy needs to account for both mobile web and apps. A poor mobile user experience equates sending consumers directly to competitors.

According to a Forrester research, the trade-off between mobile commerce and traditional desktop e-commerce is sharply increasing. By 2021 consumers will spend $152 billion directly on mobile phones, reaching almost 24% of total online sales.

Moreover, mobile phones will influence $1.4 trillion in offline sales within five years. Smartphone retail sales will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 20.4% over the next five years.

Total retail sales in the US in 2016 were $3.39 trillion. If retailers want to gain competitiveness to use mobile channels, they need to heavily invest in digital inventory, store maps, virtual loyalty cards, augmented reality, and many more.

Although many retailers have only started to enter the race for the best mobile experience, the market already offers various advanced, innovative and specialized companies, who integrate top notch mobile experiences with automation, click & collect experiences, marketing and analytics tools.



The importance of data in retail

Image result for data collection imagesData is a set of values of qualitative and quantitative variables out of which information can be derived. Information is the starting base for every retailer’s strategic decision making process. In the process of making a good decision, retailers need first to know their objective of collecting information and then follow rational criteria to chose significant data sets from millions of available variables. The crucial part of this activity is collecting the right information. Wrong or insignificant information can prevent effective decision-making. It is easy to make a bad decision when relying on the wrong set of information.

Modern day technology enables us to collect heaps of data with ease but retailers still face a hurdle when trying to collect the most important data sets of all: consumer profiles. The most arduous part of collecting data, is to transform them into meaningful information. People are on average reluctant to give personal data as they are scared of being harassed by aggressive advertising strategies. Therefore retailers go through great efforts to persuade, such as giving discounts on products in exchange for completing a registration process.

One of the reason for Amazon’s great success is that they have been collecting client data for years. This is not only limited to addresses and payment information but goes into further depth, identifying everything clients bought or even just looked at. The most important thing of all, is how Amazon uses the collected customer’s profile: to build a strong and personalized relationship with the clients. It’s important to provide an excellent customer service because this is what consumers remember the most. An excellent customer experience is hence key to establishing brand loyalty. Amazon’s genius lies not just in the data they have collected, but even more in how they use it. Clients freely give access to their information only if they notice they receive benefits in exchange.


24/7 Stores: Raising Awareness for Employees Health & Safety

night shiftThe modern day consumer feels ever more entitled to an exciting and personalized shopping experience: 24/7. Everyone likes the convenience of being able to buy products and services on demand, at any time of day and during any day of the week.

Although staying open 24/7 brings more business to any retailer, it can be a logistically difficult task and the increased expenses of staying open at night squeeze margins considerably, making round the clock services often unprofitable. Albeit generating losses, 24/7 services are often kept alive for branding and marketing purposes. Unfortunately, there are another two other two very important issues that are often ignored when stores decide to remain open during night time: employee health & safety.

According to a research on sleep carried out by the University of Surrey, a single overnight shift is enough to increase your blood pressure. There are many effects of insufficient sleep. Researchers discovered that a week of inadequate lack of sleep is enough to alter the inner biological workings of a human body. Sleep deficiency leads to a range of significant health conditions including obesity, heart disease and cognitive impairment.

As mentioned, the second issue concerns the employee’s safety. The safety issue can be split into two categories, proneness to injury and proneness to crime. Regarding the first category, research has shown that employees working night shifts are more prone to injury than employees working during regular hours. A Canadian study has shown that injury rates during night time shifts may increase up to 100%, doubling the total number of injuries. Analyzing crime rates, night time employees are at much higher risk of encountering crime. This may be attributable to various factors, such as the smaller number of employees, passerby and customers.

Thankfully, modern day technology enables retailers to offer 24/7 services without the necessity of night time labour. Automated retail has moved a long way from offering snacks and drinks only and should now be considered for any retailer’s go to market strategy. The recent integration of automated retail with e-commerce and digital marketing, has further created a true  personalized omni-channel shopping experience. Retailers can now offer exciting and convenient round the clock services without putting the health and safety of the most precious asset of any company at risk. People.



The omni-channel shopping experience: Sephora Flash


We live in the era of continuous technological evolution. Retail market players focus and compete in the digital world. The days in which consumers were happy with any experience that allowed them to click on a product, add to cart and check out are over. In order to gain a competitive advantage, retailers need to offer an exciting, personalized and omni-channel shopping experience. Integration of digital and physical interaction are now at the heart of any retailer’s go-to-market strategy. The modern consumer seems to be more focused on the shopping experience than the actual purchased good. All retailers are impacted by this trend and the ones lagging to adapt are globally struggling to compete against their innovative competitors. An excellent example of innovation in this field is the Sephora Flash concept.

Last year, the LVMH group launched Sephora Flash, the first ever smart beauty store. Sephora Flash has a digital selection of a wide range of the best selling perfumes, make ups and cosmetics. The Flash store offers up to 14,000 products from 150 brands. Interaction is facilitated by the most recent technology. The consumer receives information on tested fragrances through NFC. A group of tablets allows the consumer to supplement their physical basket with a digital tag, tackling the endless aisle concept in a smoothly integrated shopping experience. In addition to popular Sephora services like the Make Up Bar or Benefit Brow Bar, consumers can have fun at the Flash Bar, equipped with a large selfie mirror, a mobile phone charger and a Mini Beautic, the smart sampler developed in-house by the brand’s Sephora Lab.

Once more, LVMH has proved itself at the forefront of retail innovation. The group closed its balance sheets last year with a solid 8% growth. The future sees physical stores becoming ever more closely synced with the consumer’s smartphone. Top priorities will be to speed up the shopping process whilst making the experience more exciting and engaging at the same time. Online shopping will become increasingly compelling and seamlessly integrated to the physical world.



Automated retail: the sustainable version of ecommerce delivery

Together with a constantly connected generation, cities’ ever-expanding population is helping to foster the growth of e-commerce in capitals. This means more vehicles than ever are being driven around the streets, delivering online orders to homes and offices. The evolution of delivery options, such as “receive within one hour”, brought even more vehicles on the road for the same number of parcels. At the same time, the increase in the number of vehicles comes with a reduction in road speeds in the capitals – and following a vicious cycle, if speeds average drop to a level of around 25-30 km/h, the delivery fleet would need to double in size, causing a huge economic cost to retailers as pointed out by the eDelivery Magazine (Issue 7, September 2016).

In addition, several politicians are campaigning to reduce vehicle emissions across big cities around the world, feeding innovative methods that can bring viable resolutions to those problems. Some of them are click-and-collect hubs to multiple suppliers, that consolidate parcels close to the end customers and are organized based on digital cloud software, or even robotic delivery machines, currently being tested in small communities in the UK. Considering the whole situation, it is clear that the future is automated after all, and WIB can bring value to retailers whilst decreasing the ecological footprint.



The role of physical stores in the e-commerce era

The traditional business model of retail is facing an imminent collapse and will no longer perform as it used to. Big part of the problem stems from the steep growth of e-commerce over the past few years, reshaping the economic model of retail in all ways, including fostering the dampening of wholesales. Following the online sales growth tendency, it’s likely that “upwards of 30 percent or more of the total retail economy will be transacted online by 2025”, as stated by The Business of Fashion. The financial models for retail revenue and profit haven’t changed significantly since its creation, but the business in general has changed dramatically, especially with the advent of e-commerce. The concept of retail stores is being completely reinvented. Therefore, it seems imperative that retailers will have to define a new model to work on, one that better suits the current market dynamics.


Supermarket Concept Store by reMiks in Belgrade

Furthermore, as digital media and online communication improve, the dependence on physical stores to serve as a distribution point is becoming drastically less important –this doesn’t imply the end of brick-and-mortar, it just shows a change in the way retailers will see their physical locations from now on. The trend bends to the use of stores as a powerful merchandise mechanism, an advanced media channel that provides an upmost customer experience. Technology is being frequently used to deliver something remarkable and memorable, and as the Business of Fashion article points out, “unlike stores of today that are single-mindedly focused on keeping sales in-house, stores of the future will position themselves as true omnichannel hubs, serving customers through multiple channels of fulfillment, which will ultimately include their vendors and competitors — yes, even their competitors.” WIB is the perfect answer for those changes and new trends, providing an unequalized user experience.


E-commerce biggest issue: how to get purchases to consumers’ hands

The expansion of e-commerce is not something new. According to Direct Commerce Magazine, more than 17 million European consumers bought products online from 2015 to date. However, buying habits and preferences of consumers captureare changing, and delivery is related to all of the top three most important factors consumers consider when buying online. As statesd by a PostNord report about European’s e-commerce habits, more than 50% of respondents consider delivery price, variety of delivery options and speed  of delivery as imperative factors to their purchase decision. The ultimate request is a smooth combination amidst different options, so buyers can choose when and how to receive the parcel (or whether to pick it up at a click & collect station). Delivery and pickup options are crucial in bringing value to any business. Understanding this, WIB has created a range of solutions that bridge the gap between physical sales and e-commerce, meeting the ever-more demanding consumer needs.


WIB advices how to master automated retail sales

Albeit most retail brands know automated retail is the best solution to sell their products in high traffic locations, such as airports or stores-in-stores, most don’t know how to do it right. In the Specialty Retail Report the article states how to get the most of the automated retail. Our very own Alfonso Correale, highlights some facts that should be considered. Amidst the advices listed by WIB’s spokesman, some were choosing a suitable product in terms of price and turnover and appropriate packaging. Moreover, the machine design and wrapping were additionally cited as important features to create brand awareness and boost sales through this channel. A good location to place the machine, is also an ultimate consideration for this business. Read the full article clicking here.