The World Retail Awards (as part of the World Retail Congress) has just wrapped up this year’s winners, with Singaporean telecoms company Singtel and its ‘Unboxed’ unmanned store taking home the award for most Outstanding Store Design. The World Retail Awards has been long established since 2007, highlighting the most visionary retailers that set the scene and inspire the rest of the industry.
Singtel unveiled its unmanned pop-up store last year to digitize and make its services accessible 24/7. With a variety of services, consumers can interact with Singtel staff through a roving live robot and receive personalized recommendations. A range of phones are available to test on the spot and can also sign up for phone plans through video-assisted self-service kiosks, otherwise, pick up their online orders within the store itself. Additional services such as bill payments, prepaid card top-up, SIM card replacements can all be conducted in the Unboxed pop-up store.
Designed by Fitch, the 45 square meter store is modular and moveable, whereby the pop-up store can be easily transported to fit different spaces. The Unboxed store will move to new locations every few months to serve customers in high traffic areas, such as transport hubs and school campuses.
Since then, the unmanned store has been enhanced with 5G internet, upgrading the hyper-connected store experience. 5G has been able to provide a faster and more reliable network to support its seamless and personalized shopping experiences by powering its IoT, artificial intelligence, and real-time analytics in-store. “COVID-19 has ushered in a new, digital way of life for many people, accelerating a fundamental shift in the retail industry toward a hybrid online and offline retail model. The deployment of 5G at our pop-up store is timely as its ultra-fast speeds and low latency will make the self-serve retail model even more compelling for a digitally-minded set of consumers” says Mr. Kuan Moon, CEO of Singtel (Consumer Singapore). Customers can now also experience the pop-up store from the comfort and safety of their own homes through a virtual tour online.
Next-Generation Retail Concepts
With the unavoidable virus coming in waves, retailers have to continually evolve their retail experience to prioritize consumers’ safety, but also without compromising the shopper journey experience. Singtel for example, integrated its smart robot with a security system and temperature checks to ensure customers are adhering to social distancing measures. The contactless service model as seen with the Unboxed store also shows how 5G can further help retailers better adapt and reach their consumers, utilizing its high-speed and low latency connection to enhance its IoT capabilities.
Whilst the pandemic may proliferate the birth of unmanned stores, social distancing and lockdown has also made consumers miss the physical contact and human interaction between individuals in their daily shops. Although technology has very much well replaced this with branded Zoom workshops or video phone call consultations, it can be expected that the future of the next generation store will encompass a hybrid of both models whereby technology is used to better the shopper experience, whilst also improving the efficiencies during the transactional stage.
However, whilst some category shops are capable of being operated as a self-service model, it will perhaps not apply to all industries. It will also be highly dependent on the demographic and behaviors of certain locations, and perhaps even the mindset and attitude towards 5G internet where consumers will need to be educated and taught to embrace such technology, without the technological myths and conspiracies.