Retail Innovations Can Improve Cities

Developing new technology in the retail sector -- for both consumers and retailers -- can help to make life better for people living in cities. Eric Van der Kleij, specialist technology adviser at Canary Wharf Group, explains more about why it is such a focus for the firm's technology accelerator centre Level 39.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013 05:00 EST | 6
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Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/25/2013 3:47:13 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Well said: Will retailers listen?
I was reading an article in the Sunday Times about a service that eBay is offering in big cities that strikes me as exactly the kind of integration of retail and IT that has been missing. It's called eBay Now, and basically it allows you to use an app to place an order and have someone go fetch it and bring it to you in an hour. Kind of unreal. Typically there's a measly $5 delivery fee, but they're waiving it for the holidays. Too good to be true? I've got to give it a try.

Terry Sweeney
Terry Sweeney  
11/22/2013 11:33:19 PM
User Rank Blogger
Two big problems
Retailers watch their costs like crazy; they're not about to deploy anything that won't provide an immediate pyaback or allow them to cut costs somewhere else, which is also why they pay most their personnel minimum wages or modest salaries.

There are also enormous privacy concerns (and regulations!) in this sector, whether it's WiFi or wireless payment schemes or ways for retailer to ID you and market to you (a la Minority Report). Unless retailers start by offering incentives like discounts or gift incentives, retail shoppers remain reluctant to give up much personal info or allow retailers to ID them wirelessly. Yes, there are affinity programs and scannable cards at grocery stores, but ask other kinds of retailers if they're planning kiosks where incoming customers scan their smartphones for special discounts or offers, and 98% will say no.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/21/2013 1:09:40 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Well said: Will retailers listen?
Stores in the US have been embracing online for years... I can't really think of places I'd shop at that don't also have an online store/presence. It's the integration between the two that doesn't seem to be happening very well. I want to be able to enter a physical store and use my smartphone to locate and purchase everything; or, better yet, know what's in stock ahead of time, and pre-order it... there are just so many ways that retail can be improved with tech, beyond simply having a website, and I'm not seeing this happening.

11/21/2013 6:58:55 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Well said: Will retailers listen?
@Nicole: In the UK I don't think things are quite as bad as your comment makes out. We are seeing more physical shops embracing online, and that'll lead to other technology.

One theory might be that physical shops and online retailers haven't historically had that close a relationship. You were either on high streets or online. Increasingly, retailers aren't able to get away with only selling in shops or online. It's all about "multichannel", which means enabling people to buy what they want, how they want, when they want.

Nicole Ferraro
Nicole Ferraro  
11/20/2013 3:15:59 PM
User Rank Staff
Well said: Will retailers listen?
Couldn't agree more with the points made here. However, it seems that everyone understands this except retailers. I am regularly struck by how little tech innovation retailers have managed to work into their stores. Why?

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
11/20/2013 11:20:29 AM
User Rank Staff
The benefits of retail innovations
Great thoughts here. I find shopping these days to be a bit overwhelming -- so many stores in malls that are larger than ever, even in the inner city. Mobile apps that help organize a trip would be a terrific help to me -- and might even keep me from shopping online instead. Just my two cents.

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