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How a Hong Kong retail store is embracing robotic technology – Part I

A growing number of retailers in Hong Kong have begun adopting technology over the last 12 months. However, a Hong Kong retail store has been embracing emerging technologies since 1999, notes a recent report.

The company is now home to the first Pepper robot on customer service duty in one of its Hong Kong store and leads in the adoption of online apps allowing shoppers to virtually place furniture in their home.

The furniture retailer is banking conglomerate that was the first Hong Kong company to launch an online brokerage in 1999.

It was noted that the company displayed its commitment to embracing tech when during the Sars epidemic (2003), it was the first company to introduce online shopping enabling customers to purchase necessities and have their items delivered to them.

The company’s founder and chairman noted that regarding the group’s philosophy on technology they always treat their customers’ concerns and feelings as the number one priority; that is why they are moving ahead with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) to create an impact.

In Part I of this report, OpenGov will cover the company’s innovative concept store. Part II can be found here.

The innovative concept store

The company’s two-story 20,000sqft New Retail Concept Store in Mong Kok’s Chong Hing Square has been trading for about a year now, a testbed for apps and in-store technology that is constantly being revised, enhanced and added to.

Perhaps the most tangible execution of the group’s customer-centric digital transformation is Pepper, the little robot with a female Cantonese voice.

The little robot can dance on request, delighting the children that often accompany their parents to store. The robot can also answer customer questions about the company’s loyalty program from its workspace outside the membership counter.

However, the less visible implementation of the company’s digital plan is commendable;  an innovative app allows customers to virtually place furniture items in their apartment to get an idea of how the item will look. They can then decide if they want to order the item. This can be done via phone or tablet; from the store or home.

The app is the perfect solution for Hongkongers facing shrinking apartment footprints, easing the tension of having to plan a layout that suits the smaller apartments.

The made-to-order zone on the Mong Kok concept store’s level B2 is equipped with a large display screen for app users to preview their selected product from all angles. Using VR technology, the system also provides customised furnishing solutions for medium and small-sized apartments.

Guests can take a virtual tour of homes to gain an accurate glimpse of products in situ and see a product’s intelligent functions in action – for example, tables that convert to sleeping spaces and furniture with storage space built in.

The AR mode uses cutting-edge mobile 3D Space-Tracking technology, cutting out the hassle of product scanning while generating an “actual” 1:1 preview of an item, allowing simple and easy mix-and-matching for different home styles.

The founder noted that tech advances have transformed consumer behaviour and shopping patterns while e-commerce has changed the consumption value chain, creating a complementary retail channel to bricks-and-mortar stores.

He added that by using leading-edge retail technologies to combine online and offline shopping experiences, coupled with a modern supply chain, and big data and artificial intelligence innovations, the firm has created a pioneering all-round omnichannel retail network for home furnishing.

The concept store also features multiple digital kiosks and touch-screens around the store augmenting the customer service roles of floor staff by suggesting alternative or complementary products and providing specifications. AR features in several innovations in store, including creating 3D images of items in the company’s catalogue.

Read more in Part 2 of this piece.

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