Cast your mind back 25 years, to a world in which digital giants like Amazon and Asos didn’t exist.
The worldwide web was in its infancy and the mention of buying products online would have probably had your friends doubting your sanity.
But the ecommerce and technology boom over the past quarter of a century has allowed new etail powerhouses to heap pressure on more traditional retailers.
That sums up the radical shift the industry has gone through during the past two decades.
Asos, a business that was merely a brainchild at the turn of the millennium, is now worth nearly as much as one of UK retail’s elder statesmen.
The almost meteoric rise of Asos from a start-up to pacesetter within the fashion industry is symbolic of wider shifts taking place in retail that are helping to create the M&Ss of tomorrow.
For instance, it is only 10 years ago this week that the notion of contactless debit and credit cards was introduced in the UK.
Fast forward to today, and their use is so ingrained in shopping habits, data from payments processor Worldpay suggests that contactless spending exceeded £10bn last year.
And, according to the British Retail Consortium, contactless cards are now used to pay for a third of all card purchases across the industry – up from 10% less than two years ago.
“Tech. will bring together more than 500 leading retailers, venture capitalists, start-ups, industry analysts and technology experts”
The pace of that adoption has been rapid – and further change will be just as forthcoming in what is already one of the most technologically advanced retail markets in the world.
It is for that very reason that we have launched Tech. powered by Retail Week.
Technological advancements are yet to conjure up a crystal ball, but next week’s inaugural two-day festival will come a close second, offering a true glimpse into the future of retail.
Tech. will bring together more than 500 leading retailers, venture capitalists, start-ups, industry analysts and technology experts.
Among the inspiring speaker line-up are Amazon’s vice-president of global innovation and communications Paul Misener, Facebook’s director of retail, ecommerce and fintech Martin Harbech, and Andrea Trocina, director of technology, web and apps at Asos.
The fashion business is just one of the retailers setting the benchmark for what can be achieved by embracing digital transformation.
The etailer’s mobile app is one of the best in retail, with m-commerce now accounting for around 60% of sales.
Asos creates an array of online content to build brand loyalty and made 600 technological improvements to its platform in the six months to February 28 alone to maintain customer satisfaction levels.
It is also exploring visual search technologies based on screenshots, social media pictures and photographs, and is attempting to revolutionise returns by refunding customers as soon as they drop unwanted apparel off at the Post Office.
“While the answers to those questions will emerge over the coming years, one thing is for certain – retailers must capitalise on the growing influence of technology if they are to thrive”
Investing in technology at a similar rate, the likes of Amazon, Shop Direct and Ocado continue to push the boundaries and help shape tomorrow’s retailing world.
But exactly what does that future hold? Will voice commerce take off as the next big method of shopping for UK consumers? Or are retailers better off ploughing precious capex into virtual reality, artificial intelligence or augmented reality?
While the answers to those questions will emerge over the coming years, one thing is for certain – retailers must capitalise on the growing influence of technology if they are to thrive.
The frightening speed at which Asos has caught up to M&S emphasises the need for retailers to act today to be fit for battle in the industry of tomorrow.
Find out more about Tech. at Tech.Retail-Week.com