[Liveblog] Laurent Haug on the ongoing reinvention of shopping

The line between offline and online shopping is blurring completely. And technology - and the return of humans - will change the retail experience even more.

Laurent Haug, Anthemis & MKS

Warning: Liveblogging. Prone to error, inaccuracy and howling crimes against grammar. This post will be improved over the first 48 hours after publication.

The distinction between online and offline shopping will not make sense in a few years. Burberry’s shops were designed to reflect the website. Tesco has experimented with interactive walls for you shopping. More retailers are installing beacons, which push offers to your phone when you enter the store. The physical is pushing you towards the online.

Amazon has released the Dash button which allows you to re-order basic supplies with a single button push.

Websites have rich analytics dashboards – and now shops are getting the same, using tech on top of shelves that monitors people’s movements through the stores. Another company is doing the same with foot mats. Google is starting to show busy times for stores in the US, base don Google Maps data.

Content and marketing are blurring together

The line between content and marketing is blurring ever more. Shopping is getting embedded into social media content, with integrated buy buttons. Harpers Bazaar in the UK has launched an online shop selling what you can see in the paper magazine. Another company is working on recognising clothes in photos, and offering you buy links.

Dollar Shave Club has a fun, entertaining website. They’re part of a breed of company creating new shopping experiences online – Harry’s, Caspar, Warby Parker. And The last of those is coming back to shops. And they are vertically integrated companies, from manufacture to sales. It brings the costs right down.

Facebook Messenger is getting a virtual assistant called M, that acts almost like a digital concierge. This is a new place bands have to compete: search, social media and now these interactive assistants. Will the results be independent? Or paid?

lookup.to – Lookup is an Indian app that allows you to chat with a local shop owner. If they don’t reply within 5 minutes, they get a call. Agent Q is another interactive assistant.

The drones are coming

Automation is coming. We have automated journalism already – and automated weapons are coming. Price automation is already at work on Amazon, whose prices change all the time. Paribus monitors traffic in real time, and allows you to swiftly get money back from retailers who offer a price matching guarantee.

Project Wing is testing drone delivery in rural Australia.

Transparency is being forced down the throat of retailer sin interesting ways. ShopGenius is a browser extensions that gives you price comparisons in real time as you shop online. aVOID automatically removes products that are produced using child labour.

A woman in South Korea was sleeping on the floor – and her robot vacuum cleaner started sucking up her hair… Automation is great, but sometimes we need to rehumanise. Costco has started replacing automated checkouts with humans again.

Rehumanising business

Toyota is starting to replace robots with workers in the production chains, because robots can’t innovate, and humans can. Enjoy.com will send someone to your home to help you learn about your new tablet. Amazon has Mayday on its Fire tablets which allow you to contact with a human who can help you with it.

BooikIndy adds a button to Amazon that tells you a local bookshop has the book – and its price.

If you’re interesting in retail, look at Chine, look at Korea – they’re 10 years ahead of us.

Retail is one of the sectors that is only just starting its revolution.