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The next Store Wars will be fought on Smart devices

LONDON: May 05, 2017. A shopping and delivery revolution is happening - without consumers ever leaving their sofa. Apple Watch sales doubled last year, and smart speakers such as Amazon Echo will be a £7 billion market within five years. ParcelHero head of Consumer Research David Jinks MILT, says ignoring smart tech will hit many retailers where it really smarts... their bottom line:

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." - Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.

It's all too easy to miss new tech trends. Reports of the death of the smart watch in the last year have been greatly exaggerated.

Yes, Apple Watch shopping Apps from Amazon and eBay were dropped last month, with some tech commentators excitedly prophesying the demise of the tech; but it seems more likely they are just readying a next generation of truly smart shopping Apps.

Sales of smart watches such as the Apple Watch, and smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, are, in fact, booming. Household ownership of smart watches rose from 3.0 percent in 2015 to 12.0 percent in 2016; and Google Home's launch in the UK last month fuelled a market expected to grow to £7 billion globally by 2022.

Smart devices will transform shopping and deliveries in just a few years – and retailers will have to move smartly to keep up with changing consumer habits: From Ocado and Just Eat, wearable Apps are accessible all the time; and make it easy to book home deliveries on the go.

It's not just pure-play online retailers who benefit from the new tech. Clever tools like Find Near Me are great for hunting down nearby stores. And look out for Watch List; you check off the items on your list as you go, and the App even re-orders the list to follow the layout of your local supermarket next time.

And Next Generation Apps will really have the smarts. Based on location and history, they will be able to tell an in-store customer they are passing a product they need, or a sales promotion they will be particularly interested in.

Meanwhile Voice shopping has made smart speakers indispensable. Amazon Echo users are already well-used to asking Alexa to 'order dog food' through Amazon Prime. This is obviously good news for Amazon but bad news for other sellers. But third party stores can literally upskill to ensure they don't miss out.

Companies like Just Eat have created app-like "Skills" for the Echo to re-order takeaways. ShopSavvy even tells shoppers if a particular product is on sale at a particular store. That means if Echo users ever leave their couch again; they at least won't have a wasted journey.

And even ParcelHero's own partner services are in on the act. Hermes' Skill for Alexa enables you to track a parcel easily from your armchair; as does DPD's new skill (launched this week in Germany) which also alerts you to the 60-minute delivery window.

Consumers and retailers are already buying, selling and shipping with these new technologies. But many retailers haven't even produced responsive sites that work with mobile phones. As we saw earlier, it's all too easy to overlook the next big retail opportunity – be Smart and keep up with the online delivery revolution.

UK-based ParcelHero is an online parcel delivery company offering courier service options to customers from the world's largest carriers.

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