‘My grandmother’s not buying it’
Dubai Eye’s James Piecowye leads interesting panel on retail technology
May 4, 2014 10:11 by Nasreen Rasool
We know we live in a new age when people don’t go to malls to shop anymore and children want to use touch screen devices and don’t even know how to use a mouse. These were some of the examples that emerged in a panel discussion entitled ‘Brand Engagement and Retail Technologies’ at the STEP Conference 2014 (Wednesday April 30).
Leading the panel was the colourful James Piecowye who is also a presenter on Dubai Eye Radio. The other members included Ashish Benarjee, VP of Brand Development at Du; Hermann Behrens, CEO Middle East of Brand Union; William Coombe, Senior Director of Spiderfrogs; and Olga Kudryashova, Strategic Planning Director of Cheil MENA.
According to the panel, the face of branding for in-service retail is changing, as companies are now focusing on enhancing consumer experience at the point of sale. Banks, for example, are moving away from the sterile look and are now being designed to look more like art museums or coffee lounges.
Sharing her views on retail technology, Olga of Cheil Mena said that a lot of malls were dying in the sense that people don’t go to malls to shop these days. “Retail is not about buying anymore, it’s about acquisition and experience,” she said.
She touched on how technology can create customer intimacy through innovations like large screen displays that give consumers the experience of being somewhere exotic.
“Technology doesn’t have to be high-tech. It can be low tech as well. It’s all about the experience,” she said.
Piecowye posed the question of how retail stores reconcile the gap between the generations in their ventures to introduce new technologies in-store. “My grandmother’s not buying it,” he said, putting in bluntly.
Du’s Brand Manager Ashish Behari responded, saying “It is not true that old people are not comfortable with technology. We are teaching them slowly,” he said adding everyone, even the old, have cellphones. On the question of redundancy, he said, “Technology gets better all the time and you have to move along with it.”
Hermann of Brand Union added, “Technology provides the best opportunity for brands to be helpful for customers. Artificial intelligence is moving from being artificial to becoming more intuitive.”
All agreed that the possibility of losing the human connection may frighten some consumers, which is why retail stores have to find the balance between advancing technologically and using it to help people. It’s not just about using technology for the sake of technology, but rather to make the retail experience easier and more efficient for the end consumer.