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Technology and innovation in retail: who’s really leading the way?

3 July 2017 - Fiona Wijngaards, Business Development Manager, Global Retail, Worldpay
New research into luxury and mid-market retailers in Europe uncovers surprising findings in the world of retail innovation and technology.

Our latest research into retail technology and innovation have uncovered some surprising findings. We’ve discovered that, when it comes to leaders and followers in retail, luxury brands are seen by both their peers and by mid-market merchants as leaders – an insight which may have seemed antithetical to common perceptions of the industry.

What are our top findings?

100% of mid-market retailers questioned agree – luxury leads the way in implementing technology and innovation.

With 86% of the luxury brands surveyed identifying as leaders, luxury really forges ahead in the broadest sense. They not only stand out in fashion, but they also stand out in creativity – whether in creating their brand image, in their high-end shopper experience, in personalising across channels, in innovation or in technology. 

These are core components in the luxury strategy and have shown to be repeatedly successful. And as early adopters and trend setters, they’re watched by their fellow luxury brands and are a true inspiration for mid-market retailers: luxury retailers are selling a lifestyle. 

In fact, 68% of mid-market retailers identify as followers, using the core components of luxury brand strategies as ways to keep up and to maintain. Mid-market retailers are very flexible and adaptable, having to satisfy the mass quickly and constantly and that requires a different strategy.  

Looking at strategy, we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that luxury brands perceive themselves as agile in the face of change in the retail landscape. 

Out of all industry segments surveyed, luxury cosmetics and perfumes are at the forefront of technology. 

This is not a surprise, as cosmetics and perfumes are very personal and experienced in-store, but what did surprise us is that cosmetics and perfume merchants place a higher priority on the online experience and personalisation on connected devices than in-store. They see online as a means to get their shoppers into a physical store.

Luxury brands also place a higher priority on investing in innovation to propel user or brand experience – with 64% saying it’s their top priority. 

And omni-channel payments seem to be a lot more integral to luxury cosmetics and perfumes than to those mid-market retailers in the same industry – with omni being the top method for collecting shopper preferences at 46%, and with mid-market ranking it lower down on the list at 29%, favouring intelligent merchandising displays in-store.

Intelligent data has shown to be integral to the evolving strategies of both luxury and mid-market brands.

Use of intelligent data enables retailers to interact with customers even outside the traditional buying process, or to bring an omni-channel buying experience to both the in-store shopper and the online shoppers. This would enable the opportunity to get to know their customers and treating them the same across channels.

One of the best uses of intelligent data sits with FarFetch’s “Store of the Future” concept, which aims to humanise the in-store experience for shoppers by using “in-store cookies” to tailor to the shopper’s specific interests and styles to aid the effectiveness of their sales staff. 

This interest in creating the personal, rather than the mass is something that is now extending beyond luxury – the originator of this way of thinking – filtering down to mid-market retail as a way to stand out from increasing competition from a more globalised retail world.

To compete, retailers from both ends of the spectrum need to learn from one another to embrace digital commerce, innovation and technology as they move forward into the high tech world of the retail future. 


Take a look at my latest report, Technology & innovation in retail: who’s really ahead, to find out more about these topics and more, including use of VR and AR technologies, what retailers in both luxury and mid-market can do to meet the future head-on, and even more insights from our survey of over 100 retailers throughout Europe in luxury and the mid-market.