How Tesco, John Lewis, M&S, Shop Direct and Dixons Carphone – partners of Tech. powered by Retail Week – are using technology to improve the customer experience.

From buying and paying on iPhones to telling voice assistant Alexa what we want, technology is changing how we shop dramatically.

Retail leaders are embracing new technologies to give consumers a slicker, easier shopping experience.

Tesco Labs head of technology research Paul Wilkinson says it consistently embraces and experiments with the new technologies to find the best future solutions for customers, colleagues and its business.

“How people shop for groceries is changing and technology plays a huge part in making the customer journey quicker, more efficient, more convenient and more enjoyable.

“Whether that is through the use of voice-activated assistants for online shopping, an improved experience in store, or the reduction of food waste in the home, technology will be integral in helping us serve our customers a little better every day.”

For Marks & Spencer the opportunity that technology brings to the business is two-fold, according to head of online trading Ricky Wilson.

“Firstly technology helps deliver greater insight, and through that we can offer a more personalised, relevant experience.

“The second is technology as an enabler of customer experience – taking M&S to where our customers are – in an easy, convenient way.”

But which technologies are retail’s leaders excited about?

A new reality

For Kash Ghedia, head of technology at Dixons Carphone, AI, augmented and virtual reality are the most interesting developments.

“Long term it may change the way customers shop our stores and also how we can drive immersive connected experiences.”

Dixons Carphone plans to use the technology to drive better interactive experiences through product demonstration, he adds.

John Lewis believes AR can help shoppers find the right products.

Sienne Veit, the department store group’s director of online product, says: We think there is a lot of value in AR and visualisation which we have been trialling in a number of different ways, including through JLAB, our retail accelerator, and on our iPad app where we have introduced a popular ‘find similar’ button for fashion products.”

AI is an exciting development for Shop Direct.

“This year we’re applying AI to Very Assistant to let customers ask service questions in their own words, with the chatbot offering up tailored responses”

Jon Rudoe, Shop Direct

The group, which owns Very and Littlewoods, has emerged as a pioneer in personalisation over the past few years and retail and technology director Jon Rudoe believes that AI will give it the scale and processing power to take its mobile personalisation to the next level.

“This year we’re applying AI to Very Assistant to let customers ask service questions in their own words, with the chatbot offering up tailored responses,” he says.

“It will make the customer’s life easier because they get their answer quickly in the instant message format they love. We’ll benefit from the efficiency and insight that an automated system brings.”

Shop Direct is working on opening up its APIs to allow it to add new tech to its stack quickly and share data more readily with partners. Rudoe says this will help give customers an even better experience.

Technology can also be used to help employees do their job better.

Veit says: “A big project for us this year is empowering shop partners with apps on iPhones to help them deliver outstanding customer service. We started to introduce this in March and by the end of the year all shop partners will be using iPhones to help customers.”

Meeting the leaders at Tech.

With technology soaring up the priority list across retail, it is unsurprising these industry leaders have partnered with Tech., powered by Retail Week, to help them reach their goals.

As Europe’s largest festival of innovation in retail technology, there will be more than 120 speakers from technology companies, leading retailers and data insight specialists.

“It’s vital that the industry gets behind innovation and inclusive, focused events like this one are the perfect way to do that”

Jon Rudoe

“This event will be different,” says Rudoe. “It’s not just for the senior people who tend to go to similar conferences. It will attract everyone interested in retail tech to share ideas and be inspired.

“It’s vital that the industry gets behind innovation and inclusive, focused events like this one are the perfect way to do that. As the UK’s second biggest pureplay, we had to be involved.”

New technology adoption is key to Dixons Carphone’s business strategy, and the specialist electrical and telecoms retailer says becoming a Tech. partner is about discovering emerging tools.

“We hope to achieve a better understanding of what the tech partners are offering and look to see if any align with our strategy,” says Ghedia.

It’s a similar story at M&S. Wilson says: “For M&S it’s about connections – tapping into the concepts and ideas on show to deliver innovation at M&S that ultimately improves the shopping experience for the customer.”

Tesco also wants to meet innovative start-ups and hear about developments from other areas of the industry.

Veit says Tech. is an opportunity for John Lewis to discuss the tech-related career opportunities within its business.

“As a large business we offer a very wide range of jobs from data science, to web and app engineering, and the chance to work on truly innovative, smart ideas at scale with the latest technologies,” she says.

Discovering new technology – and the experts that make sure we’re getting the most out of it – is a priority for retail’s leaders. Make sure you join them at Tech. to unearth the technologies, partners and solutions that will power your future strategies.

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