“NewGen Retail” was coined by honestbee when they launched the habitat by honestbee, in mid October 2018.

habitat by honestbee is a tech-enabled, multi-sensory grocery and dining experience quite unlike anything we’ve experienced here in Singapore.

About NewGen Retail

NewGen Retail is about online and offline. honestbee believe in using technology to improve the retail and dining experience. It’s not just about going digital and cashless, but also to enable human interaction.

This is a bold manifestation of the ambitious vision of honestbee founder, Joel Sng. The project was made possible by a talented team that brought it to fruition within 1 year – it was no easy feat. They have achieved something which other retailers in Singapore had not managed to do so.

In less than 6 months, this NewGen Retail concept continued to impress and delight customers, and industry players. It welcomed close to half a million visitors across all ages.

habitat by honestbee was voted by IGD as the top 16 “must-see” global retail innovation in 2019 and reported by Google as the top 10 trending searches in Singapore in 2018.

The new retail concept, which inspired many, piloted the use of technology for retail such as:

  • customer sign-in (beePass)
  • cashless shopping (Scan n Go)
  • seamless O2O retail shopping
  • seamless check out (Auto check out and RoboCollect)
  • on location food ordering with mobile app
Is habitat by honestbee, therefore, the template for future retail?

I believe that the real revolution of retail need not come in more flagship stores, but in retail innovation going mainstream. Wide spread acceptance of consumers to the new technology and new way of shopping is also important.

According to the book “Crossing the Chasm”,  the barrier towards mainstream technology adoption is referred to as chasm of resistance. It recognizes that there is anxiety towards changes and innovation. This applies to both retailers and consumers.

Here’s how to cross the “chasm”:

  • For the mainstream retailers who are concerned about ROI, fear of failure and customer acceptance, they should take smaller trials and strive to address preferences for functionality and practicality.
  • For the consumers, introduction of retail innovation needs to be less disruptive. We should look at how the innovation can be seamlessly integrated into the current shopping experience.
My projections

With NewGen Retail as a starting point, I have a few projections on how retail innovation will unfold for both retail experience and retail operations.

1. Modular Retail Tech adoption

Honestly, it takes hefty financial resources and commitment to build a flagship store. I think we are more likely to witness modular implementation of retail innovation.

It makes sense for retailers to implement the new retail technology as proof-of-concept and, before going full scale.

Let’s look at some examples of how new retail tech can help deliver cashier-less and queue-less experience:

  • Use shopping apps on personal mobile devices for QR coding scanning in place of shopping scanners and physical check-out counters.
  • Implement seamless food ordering on app in food court setting for more seamless transactions
2. More immersive and personal retail theatre

As e-commerce become more prevalent, consumers have higher expectations on their retail experience.

Instead of creating spectacle retail theatre which are usually large, singular and physically pre-installed, the emergence of virtual reality technology meant consumers can experience retail theatre that are more immersive and personal.

Imagine virtual flowers jumping out of the fragrance product packaging or shelves seen through the screens of personal mobile devices. At the same time, another customer plays games with virtual toy characters programmed to appear on their smart phones while they are in proximity of the featured toys.

Different customer can experience personalized retail entertainment and experience, from their own devices, at different parts of the stores.

The beauty and fashion retail industries have been experimenting in this area in a big way.

3. AI-enabled transactions

With machine learning, data of past behaviors can be fed to build A.I. that enable recommendations on food & beverage ordering and groceries shopping.

Many F&B outlets currently enable food ordering on tablets, can we incorporate recommendation engine in these tablets to increase size of each transaction?

4. Content optimized for conversion and retention

Increasingly, we are beginning to see use of contents in retail to enhance engagement.

By A/B testing different contents,  we can enrich our customer engagement matrix to drive conversion and retention.

Potential changes in retail operations
1. Workforce re-design

habitat by honestbee introduced the concept of optimized workforce, where its staff are trained to work different roles in the store. Its work logistic app guides workers to navigate tasks in the various roles.

This is useful as staff shortage for retail floor has always been a challenge for brick and mortar retail.

Retail logistic technology can definitely help to reengineer job redesigns and enhance work experience.

2. New social channel of sales

The use of promo-codes to promote products and service is a tried and tested approach with influencers.

I think it is possible for us to create an entirely new sales channel that mobilizes KOLs and influencers. We are no longer just talking about buying through social platform.

This calls for design of a revenue-share model for sales compensation instead of flat fee.

3. Socially baked sourcing

Sourcing is predominantly run by specialized procurement team where past purchase patterns drive assortment decisions.

Past purchase data has its limitation for validating sourcing for new products not previously sold in the store.

Perhaps we can endorse social insights mining to uncover new preferences and inform sourcing of new SKUs.

I am talking about demand-based sourcing, which is similar to the kickstarter’s model.

Expect continuance of NewGen Retail

Indeed, there are a lot of great potential for brick and mortar retail.

While there is constant pressure to deliver O2O experience, transformation doesn’t need to take a great leap.

There are already new technology and proof-of-concepts to harvest learning from, hence it’s no longer a question of “if”, but “when” and “what”. I believe that personal mobile device adoption will be a key driver to this.

honestbee has already demonstrated the use of technology to enable experience and the service creation with its NewGen Retail concept.

We should start to expect an overall shift in shopping and dining experience. Let’s begin to look for attributes like engagement-focus and personalized, not just cashless and automated.

*These perspectives were first shared in my presentation at IGN FutureTalk at the Food In Asia Conference in April 2019

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