At our store in Stevenage we are bringing together a number of tests that will give customers a glimpse into what the future could hold in store for retail. From 3D holograms to electronic shelf labels, the technologies we are testing are designed to make customers and colleagues lives easier and to create an even better shopping experience.
The store is already testing over twenty different technologies since phase one of the project was launched in August 2019 with more to come throughout 2020.
Michael Rose, who is part of the project team based in store says the concept at Stevenage is about testing and learning from the latest technology available to retailers, with both customers and for colleagues being asked to share their thoughts, and encouragingly the feedback received so far has been very positive.
He said: "We're testing new tools which will make our colleagues' lives easier and our customers' shopping experience better. Having multiple projects running at the same time will mean we will see the benefits of how different tech works together. With the 20 different initiatives currently being tested we’re learning from them all and we’re already working on what’s coming next!
"We were excited to be one of the first retailers in the UK to test out the 3D holograms in our store, which are projected in the air to showcase products and provide customer information. They are currently in place in our bakery department, seasonal aisles and on Scan & Go points and are proving very popular with customers. They are very eye catching and the clarity on them is brilliant, which customers seem to love. The whole idea of the test is to collect feedback and gather views and from what we’re seeing so far, it is all very positive. If you'd have said to me five years ago that we would have 3D holograms in stores I would have laughed at you – but they are fantastic."
In another area, the store is also connecting customers with colleagues to answer questions about the availability of products with the latest headset technology and the installation of a dedicated device in the produce aisle.
Michael said: "Customers can have a two-way conversation with a colleague at the push of a button. A colleague has a headset with a built-in microphone so will be able to answer any questions about products very quickly. Customers like the idea and it's been embraced by our colleagues too."
The innovation extends beyond food and into the George department too with eye-catching giant screens.
Michael said: "We're welcoming customers into George in a whole different way – with digital signage. Our George products will be modelled by real people making it much more eye-catching for customers. We’re showcasing the latest fashion on a giant screen made up of six digital screens – the biggest in the company. The screens also enable us to be more reactive to events or the sudden change in weather for example.
"They look really, really good and they bring loads of theatre to the George department. They are fantastic!"
Another one of the tests has been in the laundry aisle using new Electronic Shelf Labels, pictured above, rather than the traditional paper-based price labels customers normally see on the shelves.
Michael said: "We’ve tested labels from four different suppliers. They are about the size of a post-it note and run on batteries which last up to five years. In the future they’ll be fully integrated into our system so any price changes can be loaded up immediately. We can have 3,000 price changes in a week so could save our colleagues a lot of time and our customers seem to love the idea too."
In further innovation that customers will see at the store is the Cleveron Flex Machine, pictured above, which is an automated parcel service for Click & Collect shoppers.
Michael said: "It is essentially a large, and very clever, vending machine. You put your order number in, the machine will find your parcel and it will be delivered at the front of store for you to pick up. In the past a colleague would have to go and find the parcel, but now the machine does it all. It's pretty cool to see how these latest technologies can enhance the services we provide."
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland called in at the store to check out some of the innovation for himself, and was given a guided tour of the store during which he was shown the new features.
He said: "It’s great to hear that Stevenage has been picked by Asda as its Technology concept store, allowing local shoppers to get a glimpse into the future of retail. From my behind the scenes tour of the store, it was great to see how Asda are testing the various technologies, like the automated click and collect machine, to give their customers a shopping experience that’s fit for the future, and upskilling their colleagues in the process."
Colleagues in Stevenage have also been introduced to Workplace by Facebook. Michael said: "This means that they can join groups that interest them and stay connected to other colleagues across Asda, and the Walmart world. All Stevenage colleagues with an email address have been given access to Workplace to support them with the changes in the store, and to enable them to ask questions and give feedback."
And as well the innovations being tested on the store floor, colleagues have also had their colleague area refurbished, pictured below.
Michael said: "It's a brand new area where colleagues can go and relax. It's a lovely space. There are wireless charging points and we have created a learning zone called The Hub where colleagues can use computers for useful things like viewing their payslips and booking holidays."
The IGD recently visited the store and gave their view on some of the testing. You can read more here.