Shopping. Love it or loathe it, a wave of innovation is heading our way that promises to make a visit to your local mall a far more productive and pleasant experience, and Deloitte is at the forefront of this trend with the creation of a Connected Retail Experience at its Deloitte Greenhouse innovation hub in Cape Town.

Shorter queues at checkout, a much better selection of goods, personalised, relevant special offers and the ability to have out-of-stock items delivered to your door within 24 hours. These are just a sample of the innovations coming to the South African retail sector that promise to make your shopping experience a whole lot more enjoyable and engaging.

That’s according to Corniel van Niekerk Senior Manager at Deloitte, the professional services firm which is emerging as one of the key players bringing what’s known as ‘Connected Retail’ to South Africa.

“It’s an exciting time for consumers and retailers alike. Connected Retail technologies will not only make for a vastly improved shopping experience for customers, but retailers and suppliers who embrace and implement them effectively will see a significant boost to their bottom line. In this sense it’s a genuine win-win situation,” says Corniel.

So how could such a Connected Retail experience play out for you as a shopper? It may begin well before a visit to the store with an email, instant message or app notification about a product you’re actually interested in, rather than annoying spam about stuff with no relevance to you.

You may, for example, have a dinner party coming up at the weekend and get a discount voucher on a hard-to-find ingredient for that recipe you bookmarked in the store’s smartphone app last week which has now come into season and just arrived at the store.

Once you go to the store, the personalised experience continues. After you put the ingredients for that recipe into your basket and approach the wine section, you get a notification alerting you to a Pinot Noir that’s not only on promotion but will pair perfectly with the wild mushroom risotto you’ve planning to serve your guests.

Another innovation called ‘endless aisles’ will allow you to buy items currently out of stock or not usually stocked at the store, like a garment or shoes in a less common size or colour, and have it delivered to your home within a day or two.

And leaving with your purchases promises to be a more streamlined affair thanks to technology that lets stores better monitor customer flows and allocate staff to till points more quickly when demand increases – one element of the Connected Workforce which will empower and incentivise staff with technologies like gamification.

Self-service checkouts – which are currently being trialled by a major retailer at one of its Cape Town stores – promise, if properly implemented, to make for another quicker and easier checkout option for customers.

“The coming Connected Retail revolution will combine the best aspects of the online and bricks and mortar shopping experience, making for happier, more loyal customers who spend more at the store,” says Corniel.

But for this to happen will require looking beyond the Connected Customer, Connected Store and Connected Workforce, and bringing a series of technologies and innovations to the entire retail value chain.

The Connected Supplier will use embedded sensors and advanced analytics to prevent unscheduled asset downtime, increase labour productivity and synchronise or integrate activities, while the Connected Supply Chain will employ advanced computational techniques to forecast disruptions, reduce shortages, optimise warehouse collection and delivery slots and pro-actively manage advanced chains to reduce waste and theft.

Digitalisation and the store of the future  have been topics of discussion in various forums, but at Deloitte, we believe it’s now time to make the concept real for the clients in our market and link business value to practical solutions,” says Corniel.

To this end, the firm recently strengthened its South African retail team with the addition of a number of individuals with extensive expertise in the international and domestic retail sectors.

It has also established a physical Connected Retail Experience at its Deloitte Greenhouse innovation hub in Cape Town. This immersive, interactive experience allows visitors to gain practical, tangible insights into every aspect of the Connected Retail ecosystem, sampling proven solutions alongside brand new technology relevant to each of the touch points: consumer, store, workforce, supplier and supply chain.

“It’s part of Deloitte’s new focus on ‘show not tell’ and we’re confident it will give our retail sector clients a significant advantage over their competitors as they position themselves to avoid the pitfalls and capitalise on the enormous opportunities offered by the Connected Retail wave,” concludes Corniel.