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Omnichannel retail: What does the store of the future look like for Waitrose?

Waitrose’s Curnow speaks at Retail’s BIG Show

Retailers are operating in a very exciting world today. From social media to mobile devices, there are more ways to reach consumers than ever before. But retailers still have a ways to go to create a seamless shopping experience that spans across channels, according to a panel of experts who spoke at NRF’s BIG Show in New York City.

One of the major challenges for retailers when it comes to the path to purchase is that all these exciting new technologies exist across different silos, which can make it complicated for retailers to reach consumers in the most efficient way, according to Martyn Osborne, product chief at PCMS. He pointed out that while retailers look at technology in different buckets like mobile and online, consumers don’t think of technology in quite the same way, and that can create a disconnect between retailers and their shoppers who are looking for that seamless experience.

“There’s a staggering amount of technology that exists in the store,” from traditional checkout lanes and self-checkout, to machines that way produce and consumers’ smartphones, he said.

Integrating all those different technologies is the omnichannel problem that retailers need to solve, according to Osborne, which can be done with a common platform that services as many applications as possible. For British supermarket chain Waitrose, they turned to PCMS’s common application platform Vision on Demand, which the retailer is using to coordinate technologies across mobile devices, e-commerce operations, kiosks and more.

“If we’re going to compete, and we’re going to win, we have to make that investment” in the technology, said Phil Curnow, practice lead of system design and development at Waitrose.

Creating a true omnichannel shopping experience is a major goal for Waitrose, Curnow said. The retailer is looking to create a new way of shopping that incorporates flexible and convenient ways for consumers to transact across channels, including self-scanning capabilities and flexible payments.

To stay relevant, Waitrose hopes to get to a point where the chain is able to support all available technologies, according to Curnow. And in able to do that, the retailer must be flexible and agile, it must not be afraid to innovate and fail and it must build a solid foundation, test it and keep expanding it, he said.

So far, Waitrose’s work with PCMS has caused very little change to the store experience, which Curnow said is a good thing. Currently, Curnow said the retailer is about six months into a five-year vision that includes adopting a truly omnichannel shopping experience.

According to Curnow, Waitrose is on a journey to its “store of the future,” which will use connected technology, creating a seamless shopping experience. Specifically, the retailer aims to connect shoppers’ experiences from store management, getting coffee and scanning items as they go, to hospitality point-of-sale, self checkout and what Curnow called “mobile grazing.”

The real trick is to create an omnichannel experience that centers around the store, because the store is still hugely relevant to today’s digital consumers, according to Osborne. And that is where all the different technologies should meet at the end of the day.

“Consumers will spend more money if these channels are more coherent,” he said.

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