Retail Innovations Blog Series: Trend #1: Smart Shopping

Welcome back to J.C. Williams Group’s Retail Innovations Blog Series where we celebrate global retail innovation, concepts, and trends! This series is based on our annual publication Retail Innovations, developed in partnership with our affiliate members from the Ebeltoft Group. Throughout the summer, we will explore the hot four trends (Smart Shopping, Interactions, Emotional Retail, and Responsibility) showcased in 2018 Global Retail Trends & Innovations and gain insight into the underlying and emerging trends in modern retail.

Trend #1: Smart Shopping – Simplicity and On Demand

The modern consumer is busy. Between careers, school, family time and social life, there isn’t much time left for shopping. Thus, the consumer’s focus is on return on time: are the results worth the time put into it? Consumers are more than ever looking for convenience in the purchasing process, but without compromising the quality of the products or experience. In today’s blog, we will explore this trend under two sub-trends: simplicity and on-demand.


Simplicity is a key driver for saving time. In retail, it means simplifying and enabling a swift buying decision. Optimizing the layout, delivery options, subscription plans, fast check-out systems and on-the-go food exemplify how the shopping experience can deliver that return on time ratio.

Autobahn Motors – Singapore

Autobann 0968

Autobahn Motors is a car dealership company specializing in selling luxury cars. The idea of the Autobahn Motors building grew from a vending-machine concept (the quintessential simple purchase system), replacing traditional car showrooms and offering a new experience to car enthusiasts.

The buying experience is not a typical “vending machine” purchase. Via a tablet, customers select the specific car they want sent to the showroom. The experience provides the feel of a “glimpse into the future” when buying cars. In addition, theatrical effects, such as dimming the lights and playing the car’s promotional video, create a presentation that is hard to forget, making it harder to say “no” to the sale. This is reflected in the increase in the company’s sales rates since moving from the old location.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:

Traditionally, car dealerships and showrooms involve significant sales interaction with customers, as well as a tour of the cars in the building. With the vending-machine concept, all information related to the specifications of the car are readily available on the iPad, eliminating much of the human contact typical in car dealership sales, which appeals to those who prefer to browse at their own pace. An intriguing twist on the vending-machine concept is the contrast between the less-luxurious, hands-on sales tool and the high-end cars sold in the spectacular building, adding interest to the overall purchase experience.

Media Markt Digital Store – Spain


The regular Media Markt sells home appliances and electronic from a “big box” format (2,000-3,000 sqm) in commercial parks outside the city center. In July 2016, the company opened a new format store in the city center, with a much smaller 250 sqm sales floor and where the line between online and physical vanishes. Omnichannel shopping processes, innovative services, and staff expertise are at the heart of this new concept that aims to learn from new, highly connected customers and give back what is important to them.

Multiple ways of browsing and shopping a full range of product in a much smaller sales floor is how Media Markt has chosen to simplify their usual format. Customers in-store shop on huge touch screens, as they would online, but can be assisted by in-person experts, mixing the best of both worlds. 6,000 smaller items are available in-store to be taken home or delivered; the rest can only be delivered (e.g., fridges, washing machines, big-screen TVs). When picking up a product, whether bought in-store or online, the customer is served within 90 seconds, thanks to a totally digitalized storage room.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:

Media Markt is reinventing itself after the boom of online competitors, and this is a step in the right direction. This digital store combines all the perks of online shopping with physical store shopping, and after just one year of operations, they have reported an online sales increase of 300% in the area of the store. We expect more stores of this format to open, with focus on omnichannel relationships versus a latest-technology showcase.


On-demand concepts, on the other hand, save time by minimizing friction in the process of getting the product into the consumer’s hands. Consumers can get what they want, when they want it. As a result, they have access to the freshest products, personalization, and other benefits.

Casper – U.S.A., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland


Launched in 2014, Casper has revolutionized how consumers shop and buy mattresses. The company sells one type of mattress in six sizes for $725CAD to $1,275CAD. Purchasing a mattress from Casper is easy, quick, and hassle-free, with a 100-night trial period and free delivery in three to five business days. Mattresses are shipped in a box small enough to be delivered by bike courier.

Scaling down the profusion of mattress types, variable qualities and prices into one single, affordable product choice is the epitome of simplicity. Casper’s market research revealed that consumers share certain commonalities in what they want in a mattress, including a supportive sleep surface, a cool feeling on the skin and value. Casper set out to design the perfect mattress that would have mass appeal.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:

Casper has perfectly simplified the buying decision. Between the easy-to-ship boxes and their 100 night return policy, they have made the process of purchasing a mattress hassle-free. They went from $0 to $500 million in just 4 years and have had a huge impact on the mattress industry.

Bringo – Romania


“Uberization” is the key descriptor for Bringo, an extended concept that connects grocery stores with consumers. Bringo facilitates purchase and delivery services (by delivery partners) via a mobile app that is integrated and updated in real time to reflect retailers’ inventory.

Bringo is innovative in the way it conserves the most precious of consumers’ resources – time – relieving them of the hassle of daily shopping. The process is fast and simple. Once the client chooses the store, the app will search for a delivery partner in a 1-kilometer radius and keep extending outward until one is available. The Bringo delivery partner will purchase the customer-placed order and deliver it to the client in the shortest possible time, usually less than 90 minutes, for a small fee of about 4.5 Euros cash paid directly to the delivery partner.

Ebeltoft Group Expert Comment:

While online shopping is not a new concept, the ability to shop from almost anywhere, for any type of product, offers immense flexibility to the end-consumer, especially in a crowded city such as Bucharest. Bringo’s platform definitely fits the criteria of “Smart Shopping” by making consumer life easier and more efficient, without compromising the quality of the products, and offering retailers more efficient ways of delivering online orders to their customers.

J.C. Williams Group’s Expert Advice

This is just a small selection of the case studies available in the full 2018 Retail Innovations and Trends, but we can already see that Smart Shopping can have a huge impact on return on time. Furthermore, there are countless possibilities for how to apply smart shopping techniques to a given brand, and one method that works for one company might not be suitable for another. The feature that really makes them successful is a deep understanding of how people live, dream and shop. Through the application of understanding of the customer to the innovation process, smart shopping concepts can make a business stand out from their competitors.

See 8 MORE Smart Shopping concepts and more in 2018 Retail Innovations and Trends! Download your free copy now!


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