Opinion: Technology can revitalise retail on the high street

By Paul Broome
20 Feb 2012 View Comments
Torex's Paul Broome

With a double-dip recession looking increasingly likely and the eurozone crisis stepping up a gear, there’s no doubt that the British economy has another tough year ahead of it and that the retail industry is likely to take the brunt of this. Despite the gloomy outlook, I think we should be thinking positively and devising plans to turn around the sector’s fortunes. 

Retailers need to think creatively to boost profits, and those in IT should think about how we can use technology to support these initiatives, or indeed lead them. We must think on our feet and explore the more agile and flexible technology that is becoming available and affordable. 

Further reading

The consumerisation of IT means that tablets and HTML5-based point-of-sale (PoS) systems are becoming more visible on the high street. Apple has been using its own products as portable PoS systems for some time and at Torex we’ve recently launched our own offering in this, a cloud-based PoS area called kachng! that works via a browser on any tablet device, smartphone or traditional PoS. 

The combination of a HTML5 PoS with the portability and low cost of tablet computing means this type of technology is well suited to retailers, restaurants and bars looking for a flexible solution. As the technology is a cloud-based service, it is easily accessible, does not require a big hardware investment, and can be set up in a matter of minutes.  

This agility and flexibility could allow retailers to explore new sales channels to meet targets, particularly during peak trading times. Pop-up shops are a fantastic example of how businesses can be flexible in order to take advantage of seasonal demands.

Several big-name brands used pop-up shops to take their offering closer to the consumer at the end of 2011. E-tail giant eBay took its proposition to an empty shop just off Oxford Street where it has opened the “eBay boutique”. The store was stocked with 350 eBay bestsellers, from perfumes to digital cameras and flatscreen TVs. There were no tills – instead customers paid with their smartphone by reading QR codes on product tags. 

This principle can be applied to other seasonal opportunities such as summer festivals, the Olympics, Christmas markets and the January sales. For instance, British retail institution Selfridges has just unveiled plans to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee by opening The Great British Shop.

This format allows retailers to personalise their offering and take it closer to the consumer, for minimal cost, providing they have the right technological support to allow them to do so. Being creative and flexible is critical during times of economic strife. 

Paul Broome, chief technology officer, Torex

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