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From our Depsters March 31, 2020

How New Technology Uplifted A Retailer's Approach to Commerce


There are two exponential curves causing major difficulties for every business on the planet: the growth of technology and the spread of COVID-19.

Each innovation opens the door to a series of further innovations. Technology accelerates; just as the internet enabled the smartphone, the smartphone enabled app culture, which enabled the spread of social media. A similar process is occurring with the growth of 5G, making a wider Internet of Things ecosystem possible through improved connectivity. When technology is accelerating, it can be difficult for businesses to keep up.  

At the same time, businesses now must react to the disruption caused by COVID-19. While physical stores have been forced to close under lockdown measures, online stores are now flourishing, as consumers and companies react to the increasingly digital interaction we all face over the coming months.

So, what can companies nowadays do to spare themselves from this fate? One observable trend has been increased attention and focus on the implementation of smart technology. 

Take the retailer Co-op Food. When compared to market leaders like Tesco and ASDA, and the rising discounters like Aldi and Lidl, the Co-op had fallen behind its contemporaries. This is partly due to a sheer lack of technological innovation.  

The modern consumer demands ease of service, speed, personalisation and fast delivery. These are no longer demands, but expectations for the average consumer.  

Co-op eco bike

Co-op’s subsequent digital  strategy drew inspiration from the likes of Amazon and Ocado. It explored a number of different home delivery schemes, including a pedal-powered approach to rev up sales with zero-emission, electric cargo bikes. A ‘Closer to Where You Are’ campaign was crafted to launch Co-op’s new service, and it went on to win the Grocer of the Year. Co-op progressed its digital transformation with a wide range of technology, including the release of a new e-commerce platform, partnerships with disruptive food delivery apps such as Deliveroo, and implementing dynamic data to better connect with their customers and their likely needs.

These were just some of the changes the Co-op introduced from 2018 up until the present day, and have proved to be a resounding success. The Co-op has a presence in almost every single postcode in the United Kingdom, a wide home delivery network and, finally, a user-friendly e-commerce platform that puts them on equal foundations with their competition. With plans to continue this expansion through revolutionary technology, Co-op may soon present itself as a more than favourable option for consumers. 

The primary conclusion we can draw from the Co-op’s tech success story is just how influential and imperative it is to push the limits of technology. Merely glancing at what’s present and upcoming should be an exciting prospect for both long-lasting and upstart companies.

It also gives an indication of how to react in a crisis like we are currently facing. Co-op’s implementation began with a testing phase, using already available distribution channels like Deliveroo. Looking at proven success stories and using existing infrastructure means that any actions are based on systems that are already sound. When time is tight and existing models need to be updated, this can be the difference between being open and closing for a number of months.

Modern technology is booming. It should come as no shock that the companies that are also prospering in this era of uncertainty are the companies that are using these new digital resources right at this very moment. 

And this is a great cause for excitement for just about every single consumer. Not only should more viable options emerge for all of us to obtain food, products and information, but also how we, the average consumer, can receive them. Currently, Amazon and Google smart systems are widespread in number, and promote convenience and connection in British homes. With a simple voice command, anyone can order any product to their doorstep without all the hassle of visiting a website. 

The increasing competition between companies to be the first to meet consumer demands will likely set apart those who flourish and those who flounder in the current business climate. But the general consensus is that the right technology choices can bolster your customer experience; an imperative when facing today’s challenges. 


Jaspar Shepherdson — Journalism Student

This article was written in collaboration with Jaspar Shepherdson, a second year journalism student at the University of Salford. During the Digital City Festival, Jaspar joined the content team at Dept to gain industry experience. Jaspar contributes news articles regularly to the student-run Salford Now media website and certainly has a bright future ahead!

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