BT opens UK concept store to showcase new technologies aimed at digital shoppers


BT has opened a new concept store at its Ipswich development hub, which is designed to show retailers how they can transform their physical stores to meet the needs of new digital shoppers.

Branded as Alexander Black, the concept features fashion, homewares and grocery departments plus an ‘in-store’ café and more than 40 digital solutions.

Wiltshire: digital store untethers sales associates

Wiltshire: digital store untethers sales associates

Alison Wiltshire, BT’s global practice lead, retail & consumer goods, said the development acknowledges the role of the physical store for shoppers.

“The physical store is not dead – a wealth of transactions [90% of retail sales] still go through the physical store – but it does need a kiss of life,” she said.

According to BT, retailers are now beginning to prioritize the in-store customer experience and it’s an increasingly personalised one.

“Retailers have more data and, with a 360˚ view of the customer, they can make offers more personal and relevant,” Wiltshire said.

The Alexander Black concept store features interactive shop windows, enabling shoppers to shop and get information when the store is closed, and a slew of initiatives which Wiltshire said “untether the digital sales associate”.

They include a nine-screen video wall, which delivers 4K content; triggered digital signage and interactive displays to provide product information, recommendations and product reviews; assisted selling techniques; interactive fitting rooms, which identify the number of items taken into the fitting room and enable the customer to request different sizes/colours; a memory mirror with built-in video camera to record and playback looks; intelligent shelf and product labels and an interactive queue busting solution.


Assisted selling techniques

Assisted selling techniques

“People still really like shopping in physical stores but they want it to be much more like it is online: easy, personalised and entertaining,” said Hubertus von Roenne, vice president, global industry practices, at BT’s global services division.

“Alexander Black looks and feels like a real store and even includes a café to complete the shopping experience.

“It allows our retailer customers to get their hands on digital touch points such as a shop window display to show how they could interact with shoppers out of hours, a memory mirror with a 360˚ view for trying on new outfits and an intelligent mobile app for the café. It integrates these solutions to blur the lines between shopping online and in-store, creating the seamless brand experience that digital consumers expect.”

von Roenne: digital touch points create seamless shopping experience

von Roenne: digital touch points create seamless shopping experience

Presenting at the official opening of the new concept store, Sonae, Portugal’s leading food and specialist retailer and a BT customer, showcased the in-store technologies it has adopted at the Barcelona flagship in its Worten electronics chain.

According to Nuno Miller, Sonae’s head of IT design, the store experience has been designed to match the newly relaunched brand and provides a fresh way of interacting with customers. The store branding is more connected with social media, for example, and there are ample product demonstration and testing areas. An impactful video wall in the store window is connected to a content management system and has increased store footfall, Miller said.

Video walls on the shop floor provide an endless aisle experience and enable shoppers to access Worten’s full product range; while large scale screens are also used to depict ‘full size’ fridge freezers and washing machines, extending the number of items the retailer can put on ‘display’. Staff are also mobilised with tablets, which are driving 4-5% of sales in Barcelona and as much as 30% in smaller stores.

“BT is helping us a lot,” said Miller, who said Sonae wants to offer more and more digital experiences.

These include a people counting and tracking trial in Worten stores, integrating RFID with digital signage in Sportzone stores and deploying a nursery product kiosk at Sonae’s Zippy Kidstores.

Ipswich is BT’s third fixed concept store and follows openings in Milan and New York and a pop up in Madrid in 2015.

The communications giant, which is working with specialist solutions partners to integrate their technologies behind the scenes at Alexander Black, also has a global retail reach: it has a physical presence in 172 countries and delivers services in 190.

“Where your customers are, we are already there,” said Wiltshire.