POP Displays: How Technology Will Redefine Convenience in the Retail Industry

Time is our most precious resource. It’s indisputably the single greatest gift that we as humans enjoy. If you agree with this fundamental truth, then it’s no wonder that the most successful and transformative disruptive technologies have focused on saving time and increasing convenience. While it’s true that disruptive technologies often have a significant economic impact, the way in which these technologies enable consumers to save time while improving convenience far outweighs the economic benefits. Today’s blog is about convenience in the retail industry and how technology is the only force which can meaningfully transform the retail experience. We’ll also address implications for POP displays.

walmart light store POP Displays

The retail industry has largely been stagnant for decades. Until recently the industry has been focused on increasing store count, driving same store sales growth, managing inventory turns, adding the right products, creating shop-in-shop environments, and improving overall merchandising. This approach has run its course, and retailers are now in the mode of reducing excess capacity by shedding stores, eliminating SKUs and bloated inventories, and rethinking how to survive in a world of unrelenting eCommerce growth. It’s amazing that few players in the industry have been able to leverage technology to transform the shopping experience. The goal of improving convenience for the customer has been lost on an entire industry- that is until now.

online shopping POP Displays

Over the last decade or so, the primary investments that retailers have been making have focused on creating an online presence in response to the massive surge in online shopping. While the focus on online shopping for retailers is necessary, it’s not sufficient to assure long-term success.  What’s necessary to thrive in the future will be a dedicated focus on improving convenience for the customer.
Consider how disruptive technologies have impacted the convenience equation across a number of industries. Amazon is a prime example of a company that made online shopping so drop-dead easy and convenient that it built an insurmountable lead in the eCommerce space. It’s no longer about buying things online to save money. It’s all about convenience. They nailed the online shopping experience and created a culture of near instant gratification and hassle-free delivery with the success of Amazon Prime.  Among brick and mortar retailers, Apple was the pioneer in creating a convenient shopping experience. Sure, Apple stores have super cool products and really knowledgeable sales associates, but it was really the way in which they addressed the convenience factor that drove their success- no cash registers, no checkout lines, fast transactions, and emailed receipts.

apple store POP Displays

And, how about Uber? How did a start-up company take on an entrenched taxi industry and create a $70 billion company operating in 68 countries in less than 8 years? They did it by leveraging technology to create a location-based app that makes it easy to hire a private on-demand driver. Uber’s key value proposition is not it’s economical fares. Just like the Amazon and Apple examples above, it’s all about convenience.  With the tap of a button on your phone, you can arrange for an Uber driver to pick you up and drop you off at your desired destination. Your fare is automatically calculated and charged to the payment method associated with your account. What can be easier than that?

TORONTO, ON – MAY 14 -Photographed at The CNE, Toronto, Uber taxi service is a new way to travel around the city. Request and payment are all made using an app. (Bernard Weil/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Building on its in-depth understanding of how to create convenience for its customers, Amazon recently announced plans to open 1800 Amazon Go stores which feature the world’s most advanced shopping technology. Amazon Go stores utilize artificial intelligence and advanced sensor technology to create a grab-and-go format with no lines and no checkout. If you haven’t seen the video, you should. You can check it out here. As with other successful disruptors, Amazon invested in technology and used it to redefine the convenience equation.

Amazon go POP Displays

It’s pretty clear that the disruption within the retail industry will inevitably come from outside the retail industry- from players like Amazon and other technology companies. Amazon Go stores will undoubtedly serve as yet another wake-up call for the retail industry. But, retailers don’t have to look far beyond Amazon to find many examples of how technology is addressing the convenience factor in lots of different industries.

If you haven’t heard about the new restaurant chain Eatsa, for example, you should check it out. Easta is a nearly fully-automated fast-food restaurant that acts similar to a large vending machine that produces quinoa bowls. Eatsa customers order their food at an iPad kiosk and wait in front of a wall of glass cubbies where their food appears when ready. The food is all vegetarian, very affordable, prepared quickly, and there is no interaction between customers and Easta staff. It’s highly automated, fast, convenient and cool. Check out this Eatsa video.

eatsa interior POP Displays

What’s interesting about companies like Eatsa, which is in the early stages of disrupting the fast food industry, is the categorical importance they place on technology investment. If you go to a traditional fast food chain’s website and look for job opportunities, you’ll find the typical jobs you would expect in the food service industry. But, if you search for career opportunities on Eatsa’s website, you’ll find jobs like Back-end Engineer, Data Analyst, Data Software Engineer, Engineering Manager, Front-End Software Engineer, etc. Over 60% of the job openings at Eatsa are technology-related positions. In contrast, most retailers are searching for positions such as Sales Specialists, Stocking Clerks, and Loss Prevention Specialists. A company’s hiring plans say a lot about its priorities and how it allocates its resources. It’s clear that retailers are simply not investing in technology in a meaningful way.

Eatsa jobs POP Displays

So what does this mean for POP displays? The main implication is that POP displays that can help make the shopping experience more convenient for consumers will have the greatest impact. That means the display must capture the customer’s attention, quickly and clearly communicate a message, and make it easy for the customer to make a purchase decision.

Smart retailers will realize that the highest order goal of their enterprise should be to address the consumer’s need for convenience. Everything they do should be about maximizing convenience for the customer. That, along with a little technology, will go a long way in securing the future of traditional retailers.

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