Zara trials smart retail-tech in new 50,000 sq.ft UK store

Zara's new store features robots, iPads, and connected mirrors, piquing curiosity and delighting shoppers across the world.
21 May 2018

Team Zara at the new Westfield Stratford City store. Source: Facebook

Ever-imagined what the retail store of the future might look like? Well, 8.8 million Londoners and 19 million tourists have a chance to find out at Zara’s new store at Westfield Stratford City in Stratford, London.

Unveiled last week, the new flagship store spans almost 50,000 sq. ft. across two floors. The store had been under renovation since January this year and has finally been re-opened, attracting attention with the smart retail technology it features.

The company says that the new store is designed with pioneering technology to transform the customer shopping experience at its heart.

True to the results of the PwC Global Consumer Insights Survey, brick-and-mortar retail isn’t headed to the grave. In fact, it’s doing better and better – thanks to the efforts and innovations adopted by industry leaders.

At Zara’s new outlet, for example, you get what you really want: The touch of an experienced and knowledgeable salesperson with the support of a smart-digital assistant via an iPad.

The former helps customers navigate the various collections on display while the iPad helps shoppers order the right size online if not already in stock, so they can be picked up later.

“Online orders are available in store on the same day if made before 2 PM, or the next day if made in the afternoon,” according to the company.

According to spokesman Jesus Echevarria Hernandez, “Customers don’t differentiate between ordering online or in a store. You need to facilitate that as best as you can.”

Unveiling the really cool tech

Zara’s store features retail technology solutions that it hopes to deploy at other locations across the world, provided feedback from shoppers is favorable.

The collection area has a robotic arm

It features a special area that’s dedicated to the collection of purchases made through Zara’s e-commerce platform. Located on the first floor, the section features two automated online order collection points, serviced by a concealed area able to handle 2,400 orders simultaneously.

The system’s optical barcode reader scans QR or PIN codes that customers receive when they place orders online. Behind the pick-up point, a robotic arm collects trays and organizes the packages optimally according to their size, delivering orders for customers to collect in seconds.

The mirrors can see you (and what you’re holding)

The new store’s customer service features are oriented towards creating a seamless, convenient and enjoyable shopping experience.

Interactive mirrors equipped with RFID will be able to detect the garment a customer is holding, enabling customers to see what a complete outfit will look like in the mirror.

And you can pay without any hassles whatsoever

Zara’s vision is to help customers can pay using their mobile phones via the Zara app or the Inditex Group app, InWallet.

The store has also built a self-checkout area with a system that automatically identifies garments being purchased. Customers can simply confirm their items on a screen at self-checkout before paying with their cards or mobile phones.

This doesn’t mean that it’s replacing the regular cashier desks, but hoping to give shoppers more choices to improve their experience.

Self-Checkout at Zara!

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Hidden behind all the cool, new gadgets, the store also boasts smart systems that reduce emissions and save energy, in keeping with the company’s eco-efficient store programme.

Retail needs tech to survive

There’s plenty of proof that brick-and-mortar retailers aren’t going to die anytime soon. However, in order to survive, they need new technologies that can transform their customer’s experience.

Inditex, Zara’s parent company, said:

We are in a unique position as we enjoy a global sales platform that fully integrates stores and online.

In recent years we have invested in both the most advanced technology and optimised our stores for this aim. Our business model combines stores and digital seamlessly, and we are ready for the opportunities that this brings with current and new customers.

There are lots of exciting retail-focused digital solutions available out there, and retailers need to carefully evaluate each one before making their decision. Not everything is for everyone.

For example, Macy’s piloted its mobile-checkout facility earlier this year and has just last week announced that it will be expanding the facility nationwide by the end of this year. Obviously, the offering has been a success at the chain.

Walmart, on the other hand, also rolled-out its mobile-checkout facility “Scan & Go” earlier this year. Due to poor response, the company was forced to shut down the program a few days ago.

However, with 2018 racing towards Black Friday and Cyber Monday, retailers are running out of time. They need to think on their feet and act quickly to transform their store into the store of the future.