Our love affair with technology

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Our love affair with technology

Last month  Samsung revealed to the world their latest smartphone – the Galaxy S4. This flashy new handset represents the firm’s latest bid to challenge Apple to the number 1 phone spot and, if early reports are anything to go by, Apple will have a fight on its hands. It is a fascinating battle, and is spawning some ground-breaking technology that has the capacity to drastically change the way in which our sector works.

AXA Real Estate‘s Market Edge Report at the beginning of March gave more even more weight to the argument that shopping centres cannot ignore e-commerce. Very true. As early as last year it was announced that shopping centres were tracking customers in their centres through their mobile phones – admittedly they are not resting on their laurels.  More recently, Laurent Morel (chairman of the executive board at Klépierre) touched on the subject in his feature, ‘What is the secret to retail success?’, in Estates Gazette‘s Spring 2013 retail supplement. He outlined the need to be one step ahead of consumer trends, anticipating what the customer wants, which increasingly means being at the forefront of new technologies that add to the customer experience. He’s not wrong.

We are fascinated by gadgets – no matter how pointless in hindsight, the majority of today’s population gets a thrill from the latest app that will bring a picture to life, make recommendations over what to buy by scanning your online personality in a matter of seconds or reveal a stream of bargains available within a 1 mile radius. Once the basic technology behind a retail-based gadget has gripped an audience, it broadly splits into two categories – convenience and aesthetics. One always needs some of the other – there is often little longevity in producing something which aids day to day life but is ugly as sin, just as something that will wow an audience but takes 10 minutes to set up before each use will run out of steam pretty quickly.

John Lewis, as is so often the case, provides an excellent example of how to get it right. Click and collect falls into the ‘convenience’ category, yet the retailing giant realises that consumers want to enjoy the omni-channel experience and that how technology looks is hugely important. So, it is investing £300m in the first 3 years of a 5 year strategy to replace in-store technology and step-up its click and collect offer. Grocers are also embarking on big technological pushes. Both Sainsbury’s and Tesco are trying to ramp up customer loyalty through new tech based schemes – special offers through QR codes (significantly only if you have a Nectar card) for Sainsbury’s and a wider charge in the applied sciences together with an expansion of the Drive format for Tesco.

In a world where technological spheres are beginning to blend, who know’s what we’ll see in the years to come. Perhaps we may live to see ‘virtual shopping’ through games consoles, as customers take a trip to a their local mall in the form of an avatar, casually browsing the fish counter from a sofa. Not so far from what we have today given the prominence of online shopping, but technology is a fast-moving, wonderfully bonkers industry and our appetite for gizmo’s that make us ‘ooh and ah’ is insatiable. Whatever happens, we will no doubt soon be able to keep in touch with the electronically driven world no matter where we are, and company rivalry is speeding up the process. Microsoft, coincidentally at the same time as Yahoo is criticised for limiting its employees to never working from home, is introducing Wi-Fi to park benches as it promotes its Office 365 cloud software. Well played Microsoft. But importantly it provides even more Wi-Fi coverage to those that crave constant, fast internet access. See the hundreds of future dog walkers chuckling at YouTube videos on their tablets while taking a stroll through the local parks. Whatever the future holds, and whatever your opinions on our increasing reliance on technology may be, sit-up, take note and breathe it in – blink and you’ll miss it.

Edward Lowcock, Senior Account Executive

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