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Retailers 'will anticipate consumer needs and deliver immediately'

By Rachel Martin

The future of retail could see groceries arrive in your home without so much as a second thought - but not just yet. Thomas Hill, vice president of Kx Retail, spoke of how data and artificial intelligence were shaping the future of retail at the last day of tech conference Digital DNA.

Mr Hill works in the field of retail analytics, balancing everything from pricing and queuing times with customer expectations.

And he said he puts most customer decisions down to ease - weighing up the simplicity, speed and value of their options.

"Customers will take more time and effort if they are going to get better value. There's a balance to that equation, but if you're not doing any of those things you are in trouble."

He said Tesco's loyalty card data revolutionised retail forever in the early 1990s but that things had progressed since then.

"(Analysts) were able to know more about customers in three months of researching that data than the owner in 30 years of running the business - and that's scary," Mr Hill said.

"Instead of looking at what kind of person you are, they then looked at what you bought - essentially you are what you eat.

"Instead of having customer segments based around what type of person you are, they look at what you're buying right now and consider what else you're going to want to buy right now. Now it's the same principles with ad personalisation, but based around people's purchasing patterns.

"I think one of the most important areas of retail is customer experience and it's massively linked to sales growth - if you're delivering on service, you tend to be delivering on sales growth.

"The biggest cost to the business is the check-outs and the biggest cause of frustration to customers is waiting at the check-outs.

"Self check-outs have changed that, people are more frustrated and less frustrated in equal measures."

With technology getting ever-more advanced, eventually Mr Hill reckons data will allow shops to send your groceries straight to your home without you even needing to order them.

"If you order something the next day you can get it, now Amazon have just launched Amazon Now, and it's two hours, Click and Collect is instant now, you expect to be able to get it instantly," he said.

"Already the technology is there to walk into a shop, pick up your groceries and just go, that's happening with Amazon.

"Shopping online will get to the point where we can't be bothered to type it, so soon we'll be able to say it, then eventually it will get to the point where we won't need to say it, through connected data it will just know.

"If you stop customers needing to think about it, then it will be of value to the shopper, and retailers who are doing that well will win. I'm not going to get in my car and drive to the discounter just to save 3% on my toilet roll, because it will just appear in my bathroom."

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