IT services and solutions for retail and hospitality

  • 20 Jun 2014

15 Years of Technology Firsts in Retail

Retail Technology

In the fifteen years since Retail Assist was founded we’ve witnessed some game changing moments within the retail and technology landscape.  Imagine life without iPads, supermarket loyalty cards, smart phones, Wikipedia, when retailers were still using carbon copy credit card machines, Oxford Street was dead by 6pm and we’d still post our holiday snaps to Truprint and wait a week for them to come back.

As part of marking 15 years of Retail Assist we have delved through the archives to compile our own record of the biggest retail technology breakthroughs since Retail Assist launched in 1999.

See below for our 15 years of technology firsts:

  • Napster hit the internet, and although it was controversial due to its flouting of music copyright laws, it was its pioneering usage of peer-to-peer file sharing that accelerated the internet as a means to share and download information, data and content.
  • The term Web 2.0 was first coined in 1999 and was used to describe how website users can collaborate, contribute and personalise the content of a site. Through Web 2.0 social networking sites, blogs, hosted services, wikis and many other applications have been created, changing the way the internet now impacts on our lives and the ways we communicate and forex exchange information.
  • Amazon launches its music store, changing the way music is bought by consumers.
  • The retail publishing market is set to be revolutionised as blockbuster novelist Stephen King publishes ‘Riding the Bullet’, the world’s first mass-market book published in eBook format only.
  • Ocado was founded in April 2000, and whilst not the first company to offer home grocery delivery, it was the first dedicated online grocery retailer and used technology and logistics expertise to create a revolutionary way for consumers to do their supermarket shop.
  • Apple unveiled the first generation iPod portable media player, changing the way consumers used music content. Developments inspired by the launch of the iPod would later lead to the development of smart phones and handheld multi-media devices.
  • PayPal launches and by April 2001 more than 1,000,000 eBay auctions are being paid through PayPal transactions.
  • Grocery retailer Safeway installed the UK’s first chip and PIN enabled till at its Farnborough store.  This was three years before chip and PIN was rolled out nationwide.
  • Marks & Spencer became the first British company to trial self-scan tills allowing customers to check out their own purchases.
  • Sainsbury’s launches the Nectar loyalty card, a concept which transformed the way retailers interacted, rewarded and gained market data around customer purchasing habits.
  • Argos claims to be the first to use m-commerce with the launch of their Text and Take Home Service.
  • Somerfield is the first retailer to allow consumers to redeem offers using SMS coupons.
  • The Co-op claim that it’s the first in Europe to roll out self-scanning checkouts across an estate.  The Oxford, Swindon & Gloucester Co-op Society utilised self-scan points in four supermarkets and plans to expand the roll out to ten further shops within the year.
  • Facebook launches, and whilst not technically the first social network it has fast established itself as the number one social networking site, now used by 1.3 billion users globally.
  • Google although founded in 1998 went to IPO in 2004 which triggered a chain of new products including Gmail, Google Drive, Google+.
  • Mainstream adoption of User-generated content, which for retailers enabled consumers to post reviews, rate products, becoming the cornerstone of sites like Amazon and TripAdvisor.
  • Google acquires Android in 2005, creating the catalyst for Google to take on the might of Apple and their creation of the App market.
  • The first video is uploaded to the online video hosting service YouTube.
  • Social networking service Twitter launches.
  • Apple releases the first generation iPhone on 29 June.
  • The Kindle eReader was launched in November 2007. Originally the Kindle transformed the way the retail publishing market operated, increasing the popularity and accessability of eBooks.  Subsequent developments of the Kindle now sees it rival other tablet devices as a multi-media, internet connected device.
  • The concept of Bitcoin as an online trading currency is proposed by a developer called Satoshi Nakamoto.
  • On 13 July 2009 Ocado released their first app for the iPhone. The app, called ‘Ocado on the Go’, allows users to do their grocery shopping without the need of a PC.
  • Oasis managing director Sharon O’Connor said it is the first UK retailer to launch an iPhone application.
  • Heralded by many as the year that QR Codes would break into the mainstream.
  • The first iPad was released on April 3, 2010.
  • We said goodbye to Teletext in 2010, which for many had been their first taste of ‘online retail’ when we bought holidays through Teletext Holidays in the 80’s and 90’s.
  • Delivery options for online retailers were revolutionised with the launch of Shutl, providing online shoppers with the option to receive goods when they want, either within a 90-minute or a one-hour window of their choice – and the delivery of goods within 90 minutes of purchase.  Initially working with our clients, Oasis, Warehouse and Coast.
  • Oasis uses iPads as PoS devices within its Argyll Street Flagship store.
  • The year that multichannel went mainstream for retailers.  This was the year that click and collect becomes a key part of retailers multichannel growth strategies, and retailers really began to bring the digital experience in store.
  • This was the year we witnessed retailers use of Augmented Reality.
  • Boots and Nectar celebrated their 10th and 15th anniversary’s demonstrating the success of their loyalty cards.
  • Coast, Oasis and Warehouse introduced Wi-Fi to their stores to enable the roll-out of iPads across their UK and European estate.
  • Asda tests a 360° laser checkout called Rapid Scan at its York store. The technology is designed to increase the speed of scanning by up to 300%.
  • Retail operator Hammerson is set to be the first to install iBeacons across its European shopping centre network. This technology uses Bluetooth to communicate with shopper’s phones to send them special offers and vouchers.
  • DPD offers first UK comprehensive Sunday delivery service available for July, allowing the final piece of the 24/7 trading jigsaw to finally be completed.

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