We have entered a new wave of industrialisation that will completely transform retail and hospitality as we know it today.
Known as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”, a term coined by the founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, this movement will take humanity through yet another paradigm shift in how we create and consume as both corporations and customers.
Let’s put this in context. First came the steam engine, followed closely by the discovery and mastery of electricity and the introduction of electrical devices. Then, the digital revolution combined the use of electronics and computing to automate production processes, service channels, delivery of goods and many other things we take for granted today. As our electronic devices and computing systems become more sophisticated and smarter – and become better connected to each other and ourselves – industrial models will shift to allow greater end-consumer involvement in research, production and delivery.
If better digital connectivity will give customers more control over how goods and services are managed, then this means that physical retailers will rely on better brand experiences and stronger service propositions in order to justify their existence.
And with that comes many dizzying implications. How can technology push the envelope to provide relevant experiences that add value to the customer’s journey? Will there be any need for human staff when labour can be outsourced to robots? As customers themselves are armed with brilliant technology, how can retailers and brands know where to invest their capital and attention?
What’s clear is that it’s not enough to play catch up. Brands and retailers always have to innovate and anticipate how trends in technology and customer behaviour will shape their future. I think Schwab puts it best when he says:
“As all these trends happen, the winners will be those who are able to participate fully in innovation-driven ecosystems by providing new ideas, business models, products and services, rather than those who can offer only ordinary capital.”
To find out more, sign up to view my webinar on the subject, the contents of which I originally presented at a recent Innovation Salon. Hosted at INITION’s test lab in London and surrounded by demonstrations of the potential of virtual reality, augmented reality and haptics, it helped hit home the realisation that it won’t be long before these technologies are showcased as standard in stores, and will be widespread in consumers’ own homes. The most forward-thinking retailers are already covering this kind of ground.