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Can AI save the high street? Retailers invest in innovation to drive footfall in-store and online

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Can AI save the high street? Retailers invest in innovation to drive footfall in-store and online
  • Over 90% of retailers will have AI / virtual assistant technology in-store and online over the next five years
  • 67% of retailers are currently using geofence technology to drive shoppers in-store
  • Omnichannel consistency and recruiting talent considered biggest challenges to creating a personalised shopper experience

 A new report from VoucherCodes.co.uk and WBR Insights has revealed that over 90% of retailers expect to have Artificial Intelligence (AI) or virtual assistant technology operating in-store and online within the next five years.

In a report interviewing 200 senior executives at major UK and French retailers,VoucherCodes.co.uk has revealed that retailers are investing in AI, Virtual Reality (VR) and geofence technology to drive footfall in-store and drive continued sales growth online.

Investing in innovation

From chatbots to help streamline customer service operations to AI powered recommendation engines, retailers are embracing technology to simplify and enrich the user experience. In fact, 77% of retailers revealed that simplifying the customer experience is their core ambition and actively designed their e-commerce presence primarily based on simplicity and convenience.

The report also revealed retailers priorities for tech investment, highlighting potential areas for growth over the next five years. Unsurprisingly, AI technology looks set for continued growth as it was deemed the second most important area for tech investment, behind traditional mobile applications.  Meanwhile, 27% of retailers confirmed that they had invested in Augmented Reality (AR) technology over the last 12 months as retailers rush to engage consumers both in-store and via mobile.

Other top priorities included:

  • 37% of retailers confirmed that they had invested in Virtual Reality technology over the last 12 months
  • 38% have already introduced virtual assistants and 53% are planning on doing so
  • 44% of retailers surveyed offer AI powered chatbots to help shoppers; 54% are planning to in the next five years

Revolutionising the in-store experience

Over the past five years retailers have continued to invest in expanding and improving the in-store experience to increase customer loyalty. As the popularity of the traditional physical store fades, high street retailers have come under increasing pressure to compete with the ease and stress-free experience that online shopping offers.

The VoucherCodes.co.uk report clearly indicates that retailers believe technology will give them the edge they need to drive further footfall in-store. 67% of retailers confirmed they are already using geofence technology to connect online shopping to the high street; while a further 33% are planning to do so within the next five years.

 The top challenges for retailers

However, as retailers continue to embrace technology and data to transform both the in-store and online shopping experience, several challenges arise.  Firstly, is the challenge of multi-platform delivery – making sure that the customer has a consistent brand experience regardless of channel or platform. Secondly, retailers are often struggling to make sure that they have the requisite talent within the business to best maximise digital investment.  Competition for the best people in the industry is fierce and recruitment of digital and technology experts can be a long and difficult process.

 Jimmy New, Director of Marketing at VoucherCodes.co.uk commented:

“These latest figures highlight how retailers are continuing to adapt to the growth of online and mobile spending. Technology and digital investment will be key to ensure this growth does not come at the expense of traditional high street spend, as Artificial Intelligence and other popular innovations transform the shopping experience.

“To remain competitive and respond to customer demands, it is more vital than ever for retailers to evolve their in-store and online offering and create a sense of occasion and experience.  Fortunately, thanks to the rapid developments in both AI and AR technology, retailers can create an even more immersive experience for customers – helping them to build stronger connections and encourage loyalty.

“At VoucherCodes.co.uk we work with thousands of retailers and brands to ensure they can effectively harness the power of technology and personalisation to create a focused and customer-centric approach to their marketing. Whilst the future of the high street remains unpredictable, over the next 12 months we expect to see retailers continue to invest in tech and mine for more intelligent data to create a more personalised approach. AI, AR and many other exciting developments will no doubt be at the forefront of upcoming changes; however, meeting customer needs and expectations will be what drives activity and investment moving forward.”

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Honda’s part self-driving Legend a big step for autonomous tech

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Honda's part self-driving Legend a big step for autonomous tech 1

TOKYO (Reuters) – Honda Motor Co Ltd on Thursday unveiled a partially self-driving Legend sedan in Japan, becoming the world’s first carmaker to sell a vehicle equipped with new, certified level 3 automation technology.

The launch gives Japan’s No.2 automaker bragging rights for being the first to market, but lease sales of the level 3 flagship Legend would be limited to a batch of 100 in Japan, at a retail price of 11 million yen ($102,000).

Still, the new automation technology is a big step towards eliminating human error-induced accidents, chief engineer Yoichi Sugimoto told reporters.

The Legend’s “Traffic Jam Pilot” system can control acceleration, braking and steering under certain conditions.

Once the system is activated, a driver can also watch movies or use the navigation on the screen, helping to mitigate fatigue and stress when driving in a traffic jam, Honda said in a statement.

It can alert the driver to respond when handing over the control, such as vibration on the driver’s seatbelt, the carmaker said. And if the driver continues to be unresponsive, the system will assist with an emergency stop by decelerating and stopping the vehicle while alerting surrounding cars with hazard lights and the horn, it added.

The announcement comes after the Japanese government awarded a safety certification to Honda’s “Traffic Jam Pilot” in November.

Global automakers and tech companies, including Google parent Alphabet Inc’s Waymo and Tesla Inc, have been investing heavily in autonomous driving.

Yet even as the technology advances, regulations on autonomous driving differ from country to country. Audi unveiled an A8 sedan with level 3 technology in 2017 but regulatory hurdles have prevented it from being widely introduced.

Honda has no plans to increase production or sales of a level 3-equipped Legend for now, its operating officer said on Thursday.

($1 = 107.3400 yen)

(Reporting by Eimi Yamamitsu; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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Airbus to avoid redundancies in Germany, France, Britain

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Airbus to avoid redundancies in Germany, France, Britain 2

BERLIN (Reuters) – Airbus will make no forced redundancies in France, Germany and Britain, the European planemaker said on Thursday, as it reached an agreement with a German trade union to protect jobs until the end of 2023.

A spokesman for Airbus, which has been hit hard by slumping demand for aircraft in the coronavirus crisis, said other measures – such as voluntary redundancy programmes, early retirement or internal transfers – had been agreed instead.

Negotiations started later in Spain, the spokesman said.

Airbus has been struggling to reach targets to cut staff as part of a restructuring plan affecting up to 15,000 jobs, especially at its headquarters in France and in German plants, sources had earlier told Reuters.

The IG Metall union and works council representing Airbus workers in Germany said they had agreed with the aircraft manufacturer on an overall package to safeguard employment and sites in the country until the end of 2023.

About 1,300 employees at Airbus Germany and 1,000 at Premium Aerotec, a subsidiary that makes large plane components, took voluntary redundancy between November and February, Holger Junge, head of the group works council, told a news conference.

“Production figures have stabilised,” Junge said. “But we have not overcome the crisis.”

Airbus agreed to avoid further job cuts through short-time work and reducing hours by up to 20% from 2022, he said. Airbus employs about 55,000 people in Germany.

In January, Airbus stuck to ambitions for a partial recovery in jet production later this year, although there is speculation that it may have to delay that due to extended coronavirus lockdowns in Europe. [nL1N2JJ1DU]

(Reporting by Christina Amann and Alexander Huebner, writing by Emma Thomasson, editing by Thomas Escritt)

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Shell changes senior UK leadership in global overhaul

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Shell changes senior UK leadership in global overhaul 3

By Ron Bousso

LONDON (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell is changing the senior leadership of its operations in Britain as part of a global overhaul to cut costs and shift away from oil and gas to renewables and power.

Under the changes, which have been announced internally, country chair Sinead Lynch will become Shell’s global head of low-carbon fuels, a company spokeswoman said.

Lynch, who joined the Anglo-Dutch company in 2016 following its acquisition of BG Group, will be replaced by David Bunch who currently runs Shell’s retail business across Europe and South Africa. Bunch joined Shell in 1997.

The changes will take effect in August when Shell rolls out project Reshape, its biggest restructuring in decades as part of plans to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by mid-century and build a large low-carbon and power business.

Under the overhaul, Shell will cut 9,000 jobs, or more than 10% of its workforce.

As part of the management changes, Steve Phimister, head of Shell’s oil and gas operation in the North Sea since 2017, will be replaced by Simon Roddy, currently deputy managing director at Shell’s Nigerian onshore oil and gas joint venture SPDC.

Phimister’s new role in the company has yet to be announced.

Shell has gradually reduced its oil and gas operations and refining business in recent years but Britain remains an important market. The North Sea will remain one of nine main oil and gas hubs, the company said last year.

Shell also has a large retail network in the country and plans to significantly boost its electric vehicle charging point network. In January it agreed to acquire Ubitricity, the largest public EV charging network in Britain with over 2,700 points.

Shell’s European rivals including BP and Total have also set out ambitious long-term plans to slash greenhouse gas emissions and build large renewable energy businesses.

(Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by David Clarke)

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