Technical innovations varying from augmented and virtual reality to the internet of things were all on display at trade show CES 2016.
Try to contain your excitement because the connected fridge is finally here. This future blend of refrigeration and grocery retail was launched at CES in Las Vegas.
MasterCard joined forces with Samsung to unveil their Groceries application for the Family Hub refrigerator, which boasts a 21.5-inch display allowing consumers to view their fridge contents without opening the door and order replacement items.
It’s smart too, having the capacity to learn what types of food and drink products consumers’ favour. In time, I suspect the capability will be added to automatically order the items consumed most regularly and bring new meaning to ‘out of stock’.
The fridge will also tailor product recommendations as it learns. This will bring some solace for the consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands that have fought for attention on supermarket shelves for so long and are now trying to understand how to bring this same fight to ecommerce.
How do you win in grocery if your consumer is buying from their fridge?
Shopper marketers must now ask the question, how do you win in grocery if your consumer is buying from their fridge? Part of that answer must be in recommendation and the other part will come through shoppable media that connects brand communication seamlessly with ecommerce.
Groceries by MasterCard is on to this already and the companion app will work on smartphone, tablet or PC and enable consumers to add items to the household shopping list.
Virtual-reality applications were also very big news at CES. A Google Cardboard headset costs about £5 and a consumer can already enter an immersive world such as the one Nestlé offered in its partnership with Google, providing the experience of touring a Brazilian coffee plantation.
There will also be more retailers using virtual reality in their shops to educate, inspire and sell product benefits. This will provide a reason for new customers to visit stores and, if the experience is good, keep them coming back.
Augmented reality is set to enhance shopper experience and the ModiFace Mirror shows just what can be achieved in store. The mirror, which offers a 3D make-up tutorial, is not cheap at $2,000 per unit (£1,387 per unit) but compared with the salary of additional sales associates it represents value.
I’m not a big fan of removing staff from the shopfloor as they make the biggest difference in customer experience, but the idea of being greeted by a Segway advanced robot in aisle seven sounds like fun.
Innovations in cash management
Retailers need to manage costs in cash management and a new addition to CES this year was the Digital Money Forum. Apple, Google and Samsung all see the future as being in smartphone-based payments that deliver fast, seamless and secure transactions for consumers. More exciting is the innovation at the intersection of wearable technology and payments.
MasterCard and fintech firm Coin announced a partnership that will enable manufacturers to integrate mobile payments into pretty much anything that can accommodate a near field communication chip. Fitness tracker manufacturers Atlas and Moov and smartwatch producer Omate have already signed up.
All this talk of the future makes me feel my age and I’m starting to think those who don’t own connected fridges and still use cash will be the only people left in our stores. Help is at hand though. The Genworth R701 Exoskeleton could become the must-have tool to help retailers shape stores for people like me in our old age because wearing the product simulates what it feels like to be an elderly person.
This provides a reminder that, while CES brings us fantastic insight into technology that might shape retail in the future, we must never forget that the customers who shop our stores are real people and that true transformation in retail experience is always grounded in human truths.
- Si Hathaway is president and global chief retail officer at Cheil