18 September 2018

How Digital Innovations are Changing Shopping

The customer wins.

More efficient, personalised and easily navigable – digital technologies are changing the shopping experience. This is not only the case online, but also in stores – and covers everything from shopping lists to the checkout.

‘The digitisation of trade’ – this, first and foremost, brings online shopping to mind. But the customers benefit from digital solutions in bricks-and-mortar retail too. And it all starts before they even enter the store: when hoteliers, restaurant owners or caterers (HoReCa) go shopping, their shopping lists tend to be considerably larger than when an individual does their weekend shopping. To make it easier for them to plan their menus and do their shopping, METRO developed the online shop M|SHOP. Restaurateurs can use this to access METRO’s product range directly from their restaurant and put their shopping lists together based on their individual food portions – clear added value and a valuable time saver for METRO’s profes- sional customers.

Koch lächelt iPad an.

METRO’s software company METRONOM is exploring new avenues with digital solutions such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology in order to optimiseits customers’ shopping experience. For example, customers were able to use virtual reality to help develop the new Compact Store concept in France before the building work even started.


Head of Innovation & Customer Experience Isabel Rudolf-Staubach, who oversaw the development of the new concept, explains how this worked: ‘We used virtual reality to create the store with its architecture, all the productsand digital offerings. We entered this virtual world with our local customers and incorporated their suggestions for improvements directly into the store plans.’ This resulted in, for example, the entrance area being designed much like a lounge where people can chat and have a coffee, based on the customers’ wishes. ‘We learned that personal con- tact in store was a must and we took this into account when designing the store,’ explains Isabel Rudolf-Staubach.

Thanks to the M|SHOP, customers will know in future what products are on their shopping list. But knowing where they are located in the store can bea challenge for the customers, con- sidering that METRO has a product range comprising tens of thousands of products. What’s more, the customers can become disoriented if their storeis refurbished. This was the case at the METRO store in Nürnberg-Buch: ‘Some of the customers had difficulty finding their way around after the renovation work,’ recalls store manager Thomas Peinert.

 

The METRO team in Nürnberg-Buch therefore suggested that customer navigation and store experience needed to be improved. Isabel Rudolf-Staubach’s innovation experts then came up with the idea of a navigation system for the wholesale store.

 

As the next step, a pilot project entitled Instore Navigation was initiated atthe METRO wholesale store in Nürnberg-Buch. ‘Robots equipped with 360° cameras were sent up and down the aisles to map the locations of the products,’ reports Thomas Peinert. The final technical checks are currently being carried out. Once these have been concluded, the customers will be ableto have themselves navigated to the product they are looking for by an app. And they can decide what’s most important as they make their way around the store – working through their shopping list as quickly as possible, being taken to the cheapest productsor being given added inspiration by new products. And if they need to, they can, of course, also retrieve specific product information using the app.

METRO_HB2_2018_Schwerpunkt_Foto_InstoreNavigation

Working through a shopping list means the trolley gets fuller and fuller as the customer moves around the store.In the Compact Store in France, the customers can quickly work their way through the digital shopping lists they prepared at home using a mobile scanner. The clever thing here is that especially heavy or bulky products can be ordered in advance at a separate terminal and be collected later or delivered directly to the customer’s home.

 

Lighter items that easily fit in the shopping trolley can be registered using the mobile scanner as they are packed. The customer can then save time by using the self-service checkout or the payment terminal. Another option is payment using the mobile phone.The speedier shopping and payment process leaves restaurateurs with more time to talk one-on-one with their customer manager – or to attend to their restaurant guests.

Artificial intelligence will influence the whole of METRO, be it in stores, online with chatbots or regarding deliveries to restaurateurs.

Timo Salzsieder

Intelligent secondary use with block­ chain technology

Digital progress is also being made at the traditional checkouts. In this area, METRO has teamed up with the youngHamburg-based IT company Deepshore and is using the very latest checkout data technologies. For example, in this age of cloud-based big data, invoicesare archived so efficiently that they can also be used for high-performance analyses. ‘This means records are no longer a dead end. Data can be evaluated securely and quickly and used for analysis,’ explains Daniel Köhnen, domain owner at METRONOM. Conventional archives will henceforth be replaced by a cloud archive which uses blockchain technology to prevent manipulation.

METRO_HB2_2018_Schwerpunkt_Foto_CompactStore

‘Digital first, concerns second’ is not an option when it comes to handling customer data confidentially. Therefore, METRO launched a group-wide project ahead of the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to implement the new rules regarding secure data handling in all the group companies and to raise awareness internally of the issue of data protection. The GDPR was also a huge challenge for METRO customers in the HoReCa sector, as a large number of access rights, consents and data deletion concepts had to be put in place before the Regulation came into force. On the group’s website ‘Digital Office‘, METRO supported its partners with information and advice regarding this topic. This exchange of expertise will become increasingly important in the future.

How may data be used?

A legal framework is needed for correct data handling. At the same time, this should not be over-regulated, because data is indispensable for digital innov- ations. It is used to optimise processes or make customer-specific services possible. The figures speak for them- selves: in a study conducted by the digital association Bitkom (May 2018), close to half (46%) of the companies said their business models werefounded on personal data.

 

Without data, there would be no artificial intelligence (AI), as AI is fed with datain order to continuously improve the decisions calculated on the basis of algo- rithms. At METRO, AI is already used for the benefit of restaurateurs, for example to provide them with customised offers. METRO itself uses AI to optimise its product range management and processes throughout the global supply chain. Timo Salzsieder, CEO of the METRO software company METRONOM, explains what we can expect in the future: ‘Artificial intelligence will influence the whole of METRO, be it in stores, online with chatbots or regarding deliveries to restaurateurs.’

Digital policy calls for foresight

 
Even before a store is built, customers can play a part in designing it using virtual reality; they are able to organise their shopping more efficiently thanks to the Instore Navigation project and M|SHOP, and can save time with digital checkout systems. The future will be more efficient thanks to digital innovations. Administrative tasks after shopping are likewise made easier by blockchain technology and AI. Thetrade sector is becoming digitised, from the shopping list to the checkout and beyond.
 
It is therefore all the more important that digital matters are at the top of the political agenda both in Germany and in the EU: the Digital SingleMarket needs to be pushed forward. In Germany, the creation of a cabinet committee on digitisation and a study commission entitled ‘Artificial Intelligence – Social Responsibility and Economic Potential’ can only be the first key steps.
 
Yet, digitisation will be politically shaped in its next steps: innovations require freedom and call for a digital policy with foresight that will not regulate into the ground something that hasn’t even been invented yet.

 

Picture credit title picture: Adobe Stock: wavebreak3

Picture credit photo Instore Navigation: 42 dp Labs GmB

How digital innovations are changing shopping?

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