Fifty years on from the first UK credit card – what’s next for retail?

Thought Leadership
By Sarah Todd, CEO UK
13 Sep, 2016

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first UK credit card. While this innovation changed purchasing behaviour it wasn’t until the 1990s that truly transformational retail moments came when the web went live, Aldi touched down in the UK, and Amazon almost single-handedly changed the retail market. In 2007, Apple launched the smartphone, reshaping shopping behaviour forever.

The pace of retail innovation in the last five years has been faster than in any of the previous twenty put together. The next 50 years will see immeasurable change as we experience live retail analytics, the subscription economy, greater convenience and personalisation.

With this in mind, what are the strategies for retail success and how should brands use innovation to inspire shoppers along the path to purchase?

The store as theatre

Customers are looking for experience, excitement and theatre. The days of stand-and-deliver shops are limited as retailers develop strategically fresh ideas to drive footfall.

This summer Selfridges took the spotlight with its Shakespeare anniversary celebrations: window displays, designer collaborations and in-store theatrical experiences. A whole floor of Selfridges’ Birmingham car park became a contemporary stage with live theatre performances and interactive activities for shoppers.

In the US, home retailer Pirch looks to reinvent the way people shop for luxury home appliances with a truly multisensory, aspirational experience. Its in-store chef cooks up a storm, allowing shoppers to smell and taste food and see the product in action.

Meanwhile, Harvey Nichols has flexed its creative muscle and redesigned its menswear floor with an enhanced experience in mind. Rather than featuring brands in a traditional shop-in-shop format, it showcases ‘a collection of specialised boutiques’ offering art and fashion installations.

Experiential is a strategy retailers are embracing to get the most marketing mileage out of their brick-and-mortar sites. Brands must add something positive to people’s lives, even when they aren’t buying.

Agnostic retail

Some 51% of global retailers consider multichannel to be the growth area in the next three years. Shops are engaging with consumers not only in-store, but also pre and post-visit via live analytics and geo-location technologies.

Argos has taken its retail catalogue business and a footprint of over 700 physical storesand created digital formats. Today it’s the UK’s third largest online retailer after Amazon and Tesco. John Lewis, voted the nation’s favourite retailer, is a pioneer in creating a strong omnichannel experience.

The boundaries between physical and online have blurred – and shoppers are wholly agnostic to channel.

Stay one step ahead of the shopper’s need for speed

High on the list of a valued shopping experience is convenience – particularly when it comes to checkout.

Future-facing retailers are tapping into biometric solutions. HSBC and First Direct are set to introduce voice biometrics and touch ID banking. Currently in research are eye spanning and heartbeat recognition technologies that analyse how customers swipe their phones for insight into natural interaction.

This will result in ‘frictionless shopping’ as a response to shopper demand for speed.

Bravery and willingness to test

Tesco’s RFID shelf-stacking robots, Boden’s 3D customer body scanning, Waitrose’s cashless stores. All are terrific examples of brave shopper marketing matching tech with data and shopper insight. Today’s customer is more confident, so retail too can be confident and experiment.

Selfridges broke new ground back in 2013 with Geometry’s interactive retail campaign for Triumph Essence lingerie using the latest AR technology. The Triumph Fantasy Mirror allowed women to try on a new range of lingerie with virtual reality, while the fantasy experience came to life in window displays acting as a digital gateway to the Fantasy Mirror with QR codes to download an app for exclusive content.

John Lewis is testing another first to increase customer engagement with visual search technology. “Find Similar” helps people find similar products based on shape, colour, pattern and motif. Since the trial, John Lewis reported that 90% of its shoppers find the tool useful.

We are at a truly exciting pivotal point for retail and shopper marketing, with a range of tools embracing data, tech, experiential, and retail design helping us to shape shopping purchase behaviour at the right time, with the right idea. Our job is simple: deliver delight and impact performance.


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