As usual, January kicked off with several articles detailing disappointing Christmas retail sales and the imminent death of the high street.
But this year, there was also a surprising bright spot amongst the usual fearmongering reports.
We’re talking about the Amazon Go concept store.
Launched last December, the new bricks-and-mortar shop raised the hopes of entrepreneurs around the world.
Basically, shoppers download a free app, scan it as they enter, pick up their items and go – their Amazon account will be billed automatically, and an email receipt sent. No cashiers, no queues, no payment points.
This modern setup hints at how tech could be used to breathe life back into the retail industry.
So instead of worrying about the state of the high street and struggling retailers like Next, keep your spirits up and build on Amazon’s experiment.
We’ve already picked out a few key lessons to keep in mind as you start creating your future-proof shop.
Location is still important
When it comes to setting up a bricks-and-mortar store, it doesn’t matter how big your online following is – location is still everything.
In a symbolic yet practical move, Amazon launched their new concept store in the company’s hometown of Seattle, where they could also benefit from a big city bustling with potential customers.
When establishing your own premises, make sure you also base it in a buzzing community with a thriving high street. Start the hunt with an online database, adapting your search criteria until you find the most fitting shop to let London – or whatever city you’re heading for – has to offer.
Focusing on customer experience
To beat the lure of quick and easy online shops, you need to create an attractive physical retail experience, which means understanding exactly who your customers are.
Whether you aim to give them something new and exciting, as in the case of Amazon Go, or provide a luxury experience, like Harrods, do it well and you’ll be able to stand out from the crowd.
It doesn’t have to be complicated either. One of the biggest advantages of a physical store is having face-to-face contact to discuss products and drive sales, so always deliver a high standard of customer service.
Getting the tech right
Online grocery shop Ocado is another retailer that’s recently started experimenting with automation, with current tests aiming to design robotic fruit pickers for their warehouses.
Whilst the likes of Amazon and Ocado can afford to implement a totally tech-driven store, your startup budget will no doubt require you to think a little smaller.
You don’t have to fork out for the latest robotic trials but investing in developing tech is key, especially when it comes to streamlining the payment process. Automated tills, click and collect, an app – think about what will most benefit your customers and begin there.
Ultimately, future-proofing your new shop relies on precisely this way of thinking – it’s not having the fanciest tech that guarantees success but knowing how to use it in a way that speaks to your customers.