Digital services offer assistance in shopping and enable more efficient operation for shops
The 4D-Space – Smart 4D Space project implemented in connection with Aalto University’s MIDE research programme studies and develops new kinds of services for the use of the retail sector. At the same time, it seeks opportunities to engage customers in the construction of the services.
Digital services have a central role in future innovations in the retail sector.
As part of her work in exploring innovation processes in the retail sector in the project, researcher Sanna Uotinen interviewed 20 actors from different areas of the retail trade. Themes of the interviews included future trends among consumers, challenges for retail trade associated with these trends and development and adoption of innovations in the retail trade.
The views of actors from the retail sector substantiated Uotinen's observation that a major challenge for the future lies in identifying, developing and adopting new innovations.
"The new challenges of the distributive sector were realised in the day-to-day reality of the retail trade particularly during the economic downturn of recent years, when the cautious attitude of consumers was also visible in purchase decisions. A more enduring trend can be observed in the differentiation of the needs of consumers and the fragmentation of consumer habits," Uotinen concludes.
The competitive situation has also been affected by electronic commerce: as an increasing number of consumers buy their products online, also the consumers’ relationship to shop visits is altered. In order to continue to attract the customers to their shops also in the future, the entrepreneurs must invest in the easiness of obtaining the services as well as a good level of service. This is why the demand for digital services in the retail sector is increasing.
Mobile solutions to assist in purchase decision expected sooner or later
The interviewees from the retail sector hoped that the digital services might be helpful particularly during peak hours. The services were hoped to support the provision of a more comprehensive service and provide assistance to customers visiting the shop. Different mobile service innovations were considered to provide service to a great variety of customer groups. Information on campaign discounts at a shopping centre sent directly to the customer’s mobile phone is helpful to the rational as well as the recreational shopper. The retailers did anticipate the launch of mobile solutions facilitating the customer’s purchase decision and choice of shop by the shops themselves or external service providers to take place sooner or later.
Digital services were also hoped to increase efficiency in the shops’ operations. Display terminals positioned in shops and shopping centres can be used to facilitate the customer’s movement and offer more detailed information on aspects such as the origin of the product, its raw materials or how ecological the manufacturing chain is. Various types of easy to use software can also be employed to improve the service selection. For example, a software application in the area of furniture and interior design could be helpful when designing the interior of a home together with a customer.
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