Healing Properties of Honey & International Expansion

Nicola Kelly (BBC News, 2016) reports that honey is perceived to have healing properties in African countries. Such suggestions may result in companies such as Mavis Venderby adopting strategies to expand overseas. Consider the various options of overseas expansion and the financial returns from such sales (including transactions in a foreign currency).

The modern honey hunters of Kenya

  • 22 December 2016
  • From the sectionAfrica
BeehiveImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBees depositing honey in a beehive

At an upmarket cafe in Nairobi, trendy millennials swipe through their smart phones while sipping glasses of “dawa”, a hot drink made from locally sourced honey, ginger and lemon.

“I drink this every evening before I go to bed,” Immanuel, 26, explains. “It prevents me from getting sick and it calms me down at the end of the day. Honey is like a medicine – it has a lot of healing properties.”

Here in the heart of Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah”, tech-savvy entrepreneurs are beginning to tap into a market that, until recently, was the preserve of smallholder farmers known locally as honey hunters.

A beekeeper stowing wooden trays in a factory.
Image captionThe modern technology being introduced is expected to sanitise the honey extraction method

For them, the introduction of new hives and modern harvesting methods mark an unwelcome shift away from the traditions passed down through the generations.

But entrepreneur Ernest Simeoni says the honey hunters will need to adapt their practices if they are to make the most of the honey industry, now worth more than $12bn (£10bn) globally.

“Honey has become fashionable in Kenya – it’s like a craze sweeping across the country. Many young people here are starting to realise there’s a lot of money to be made from food.”

Technology meets agriculture

Mr Simeoni believes the rise of the middle class in Kenya, coupled with advances in digital technology, have made honey production accessible to a wider pool of people.

“Farming with apps – this is the future,” he says, pointing to more than 20 icons on his phone.

One of the most popular is the “Swarm Database”, an app that provides real-time information and alerts farmers when their honey is ready to harvest. WhatsApp groups are also helping young Kenyan farmers to share ideas and experiment with new methods of honey production.

Beekeeper fetching honey from a barrel in a factory
Image captionModern honey hunter Ernest Simeoni fetches honey from a barrel in his factory

But, Mr Simeoni explains, there are still a number of obstacles to overcome. He says that methods of honey production in Kenya need to be modernised.

“Crude methods of extracting the honey from cavities in the trees, keeping it in dirty containers and over-heating it in refinery rooms – this has a damaging effect on the quality, driving down our profits.”

Grace Asiko from the National Beekeeping Institute, an affiliate of the Ministry of Livestock and Agriculture, agrees that more can be done to tap the honey market.

“It’s a goldmine, ready to exploit. What we need are new innovations to capitalise on the different bee species and variety of plants and herbs we have in Kenya.”

Adding value

Diversifying the ways in which the honey can be used is also an area of potential growth, she says.

“We need people from the pharmaceutical and nutrition sectors to come over and see what we have. Collective effort with innovators will help us to ascertain how the honey can be used to make more products like the face creams, massage bars we have developed recently.”

High up in the Taita Hills of south-east Kenya, nestled among macadamia and pineapple plantations, the picture is very different for Hagai Mwaisaka, a traditional honey hunter.

Hagai is one of nearly two million honey producers in this part of the country.

Beekeeper in the Kenyan mountains checking a beehive
Image captionTraditional honey hunter Hagai Mwaisaka points to the log he uses as a beehive
bee hives
Image captionHoney is big business in this part of Kenya

He points proudly at the log hive – a debarked, hollow tree stump – swaying gently in the breeze in the acacia tree outside his hut.

“This hive was handed down to me by my father and, like him, the honey I produce is a large part of my income. I can say that the bees help me to feed my family.”

Honey hunting is the traditional method of climbing trees, tipping the log hive at an angle and allowing the honey to drip through the combs. It is typically done at night without clothes to ensure that bees do not stick to the fabric and sting the skin beneath.

“At night, the bees are cool. They are not so active, so I can harvest the honey without disrupting them,” Mr Mwaisaka explains.

From this one log hive, 40,000 busy bees will produce 60kg of honey each year. Mr Mwaisaka will be able to sell this honey for $10/kg – enough to sustain his family.

Modernising honey extraction

But this may all be about to change. The new hives being introduced by businessmen in Nairobi mean that honey hunters will soon be required to change their methods, “smoking out” the bees rather than extracting and combing the honey by hand.

For traditional honey hunters like Mr Mwaisaka, the new methods will have a detrimental effect on the quality of the honey.

“The bees travel very far from our log hives to find the best flowers, so the honey is sweet and golden. But with the new methods, the bees get lazy. They produce a lot less and the taste is bitter.”

Honey in glass jars in a factory
Image captionHoney production is the latest money-making venture for businessmen

Unfortunately for Mr Mwaisaka and other farmers in this part of Kenya, there is little that can dampen the spirits of traders and innovators in Nairobi.

Businessman Ernest Simeoni believes the honey industry is the next big money-making venture.

“There is huge potential for the honey industry to grow in Kenya and internationally. We just need to focus on modernising our methods to open up the market. From there, the future looks bright.”

Click here to access the original article.

Suggestions for Growth in the Beekeeping World

Some interesting background information on the nature of bee farming in the UK that may give rise to a rise in demand for bee hives. Thank you to the Telegraph for their article on the beekeeping industry.


‘All the honey is gathered in about 10 weeks a year, when fine weather coincides with abundant flowers. For the remaining 40 weeks or so, the bees eat the honey themselves – roughly 265lb per hive a year. On a good day a hive of bees make 20lb or more of honey – so if you get 60lb a year from just one hive, all that could have been made in three days. You need a week of good weather in July – that’s when you get good honey.’ – suggest the ever increasing focus on being able to produce hives ready for the March – July sales window and consider the impact of inventory building on working capital or the sales mix between slatted or box hives.

‘Beekeeping has been neglected by successive governments over the last 20 to 30 years. There’s a lot of advice out there for farmers and a lot of that advice could be applied to bees. There are 350 members of the Bee Farmers’ Association, but only 150 earn a proper living from bees. It’s 10 times as big in France.’ – suggests that there could well be rapid expansion following changes in government policy towards beekeeping.

This is particularly true at present, when bees are under threat from a variety of sources, from the varroa mite to pesticides, incursions into the green belt and the industrialisation of the rural landscape. Bees, as we all know, are vital to agriculture, and thus to the population as a whole, so it is fascinating to travel with Wainwright up on to Salisbury Plain to enter their world. – consider exploring the application of Porter’s Diamond to consider overseas expansion for basic or advanced factors to stimulate growth for Mavis Venderby.

The beekeeper keeping Britain’s honey industry abuzz

Manuka honey may be all the rage – but what about honey that tastes of the English countryside? Carolyn Hart travels to Salisbury Plain to find out

In much the same way that Sizewell beach in Suffolk owes its rich diversity of maritime plants and seabirds in part to restricted access around the nearby nuclear power station, Salisbury Plain is home to almost 100 species of rare plants and insects by virtue of a large part being owned by the Ministry of Defence and therefore out of bounds to the public.


This incongruous pairing of purpose and place is part of what makes Salisbury Plain such an extraordinary landscape – it is the largest area of chalk grassland in north-west Europe, 300 square miles of undulating green folds that have barely changed since the Romans tramped across them on their way to Old Sarum. Today, if you venture upwards on to the bits of the plain that are still accessible, you will find yourself – almost uniquely in this country – enveloped in a vast silence broken only by birdsong and the hum of a thousand bees.


In so far as it is possible to tell a bee where to go, many of them are here because of David Wainwright. Wainwright is the chairman of the UK’s Bee Farmers’ Association and keeps bees all over the country, including in 10 lots of hives on Salisbury Plain, from which he supplies wild-flower honey to Marks & Spencer.


He grew up in Tring, a suburban boy fascinated by wildlife – ‘Insects and things that lived in ponds,’ he says. He studied biology at the University of Sussex, where he kept bees at his digs, along with a wasps’ nest that he had captured by anaesthetising the inhabitants. He stored the wasps in his bedroom, feeding them raw meat, and must have been enormously popular with his fellow lodgers.

Inside one of Wainwright’s hives (Ben Murphy)

After university he met a bee farmer, Alan Berkeley, and decided he wanted to follow in his footsteps. ‘He was a mentor; he inspired me,’ Wainwright says. ‘I wanted to be a beekeeper with 100 hives.’ Having acquired his hives and learnt how to manage them, he saw an ad in a newspaper looking for a beekeeper to train people in Zambia, and set off with his wife and child to Kabompo, ‘in north-west Zambia, where everyone was already a beekeeper. I was supposed to be training them in British beekeeping, but they were very skilled, using their own traditional methods, and didn’t need to know about British bees. What they needed was a market in which to sell their honey.’

Wainwright created that market, selling the honey in Germany. In 1990, when his by now two children reached school age, he came back to Britain to set up Tropical Forest Products. The company imports African honey, including products of Ethiopia and Cameroon, which arrive in vast drums and are packaged in Wales.

This is still one of his main activities, carried out in tandem with travelling around the country checking on his bees. ‘The population of bees is down to human husbandry,’ he says. ‘We need amateur beekeepers – and there are more of them now – but we also need more bee farmers.

‘Beekeeping has been neglected by successive governments over the last 20 to 30 years. There’s a lot of advice out there for farmers and a lot of that advice could be applied to bees. There are 350 members of the Bee Farmers’ Association, but only 150 earn a proper living from bees. It’s 10 times as big in France.’

This is particularly true at present, when bees are under threat from a variety of sources, from the varroa mite to pesticides, incursions into the green belt and the industrialisation of the rural landscape. Bees, as we all know, are vital to agriculture, and thus to the population as a whole, so it is fascinating to travel with Wainwright up on to Salisbury Plain to enter their world.

David Wainwright on Salisbury Plain (Ben Murphy)

Life slows down as we drive through a Ravilious landscape, bumping along between banks of cow parsley and buttercups, poppies, elderflower and wild rose in an elderly car whose pockets rustle with dead bees, to visit one of Wainwright’s bee colonies.

Eventually we reach a cluster of 24 hives set among stretches of field beans overlooking steep valleys of chalk full of wildflowers. On windy days the bees go down into the valleys to gather pollen, but today we can hear faint humming among the beans, which increases in strength as we approach the hives. ‘Some bees are more irritable than others,’ Wainwright says. ‘You can sometimes get one very irritable bee, but you can calm them with smoke.’ Bangs on the hives and jolts upset them.

Wainwright makes his own beehives – all in different colours so that the queen can find her way back to the right hive. Amid the constant, and now much louder, hum of bees, he opens up one hive, brushes off the dead drones (the allotted lifespan of a drone is two to three months) and reveals sheets of beeswax in wooden frames.

Bees bring in pollen attached like bags to their legs to feed the infant bees or maggots in their honeycomb cells – it takes three weeks to go from egg to bee, and the cell is sealed over before the bee emerges to enjoy a life of work. Pollen comes in different colours depending on which flower it is gathered from, and it is divided up accordingly in the hive – one honeycomb cell for poppy pollen, one for clover and so on. Bees are some of the most studied animals on the planet, but the reason the pollen is divided in this way is still something of a mystery. ‘We should know a lot,’ Wainwright says, ‘but we’re always finding out more.’

Salisbury Plain, Suffolk (Ben Muprhy)

Bees navigate using magnetic fields and search for pollen within a four-mile radius; most pollen is gathered one mile from the hive. The nearer the crop they are the better. ‘We try to put the bees next to the crop so that they don’t waste time and energy flying,’ Wainwright says. ‘Honey is their fuel – they use honey to fly to and from the hive.’ They are very susceptible to the weather. ‘They like sun, not much wind and a reasonable moisture level – if it’s too wet or windy, they can’t do anything.

‘All the honey is gathered in about 10 weeks a year, when fine weather coincides with abundant flowers. For the remaining 40 weeks or so, the bees eat the honey themselves – roughly 265lb per hive a year. On a good day a hive of bees make 20lb or more of honey – so if you get 60lb a year from just one hive, all that could have been made in three days. You need a week of good weather in July – that’s when you get good honey.’

Wainwright’s hives are arranged like stacks of boxes, each containing 10 combs. The queen and the developing bees stay in the bottom box and the honey is in the top boxes. At the end of summer, Wainwright removes some top boxes, leaving enough for the bees to live on for the rest of winter and into spring. On average he can gather 100lb of honey per hive, but the national average is lower.

Wainwright owns 700 hives and moves them around the country according to the locations of different crops. ‘You wait until the evening to move them,’ he explains. ‘When the bees are quiet, block up the entrance to the hive and take it to wherever you want it to be – say a field of borage. You can see them in the morning, emerging. They know they are in a new place; you can see them learning where the crop is, re-orientating themselves, and by 9am they’ll be working hard. You can see if a bee is excited by a crop because they dance on the combs inside the hive – a waggle dance.’

‘Beekeeping has been neglected by successive governments over the last 20 to 30 years.’ (Ben Murphy)

Salisbury Plain is particularly good for bees because of the diversity of the plants – many types of clover, cow parsley, daisies, vetch, orchids, sainfoin. Wildflower meadows produce a lot of honey with a faint cinnamon flavour from the sweet clover. Natural landscapes such as this are vital for the bees, but farmers could help too, Wainwright says, ‘by planting margins with nectar-yielding plants. But there needs to be a plan to help redevelop the bee industry.

‘The Bee Farmers’ Association has set up an apprenticeship scheme open to 16- to 24-year-olds – there are beekeepers with a lot of knowledge that needs to be passed on to a younger generation before it’s too late. There’s a lot of talk about small-scale beekeeping, but nothing on the larger scale. We should be developing the bee industry as a whole.’

Despite much media fuss to the contrary, Wainwright thinks that bee health is pretty good. ‘It’s not the end of the bee, for sure. The varroa mite is just one thing in a long line of problems. But the mites aren’t getting up to high levels, and bees are becoming resistant to them – the amount of treatment needed is reducing, and these days quite a lot of keepers don’t use anything. Nature balances itself out – it’s self-correcting.’

Wainwright’s 700 hives provide six different types of honey: Welsh wildflower honey, Welsh heather honey, Shropshire spring honey, Shropshire summer honey, Salisbury Plain honey and borage honey. ‘Each type has its own properties, derived from the plants it’s made from rather than the bees that make it. For example, some honeys have antibiotic properties, which are good for wound infections.’

Conducting a tasting of all his honeys is revelatory – each has a distinct flavour. The Salisbury Plain version is suffused with the scent of wildflowers and grasses, with a faint cinnamon edge. It is delicious, a world away from the strong African and manuka honeys that have grown so popular – the nostalgic taste of an English summer.


Click here for a copy of the original article.

Royal beekeeper admits giving bees banned drug

BBC News reported a Royal Beekeeper pleaded guilty to administering a banned drug to honey bees. A first in the UK. Consider the implications of materials used in the manufacturing process that may have positive or negative impacts on bees, the importance of complying with regulatory requirements and the financial/strategic implications of non-compliance.

Royal beekeeper admits giving bees banned drug

Murray McGregorImage copyrightPPA
Image captionMurray McGregor admitted importing the unauthorised medicinal product

A Royal beekeeper has admitted giving a banned drug to his honey bees in what is believed to be the first case of its kind in the UK.

Apiarist Murray McGregor, the owner of Denrosa Apiaries in Blairgowrie, pled guilty to administering “unauthorised veterinary medicinal products”.

The 61-year-old has produced honey for both the Balmoral Estate and Prince Charles’ Duchy Estate.

He admitted committing the breach between July 2009 and October 2010.

During the period, McGregor admitted importing the unauthorised medicinal product, Terramycin 100MR.

He also admitted giving Terramycin 100MR to an animal, namely the honey bee, in contravention of the relevant regulations.

He admitted a third charge of possessing the substance without authorisation.

Perth Sheriff Court was told that a further expert report on the case was being prepared.

In 2009, a bee farm the Lothians owned by McGregor was targeted by thieves and 11 hives containing up to 500,000 bees were stolen.

The bees, which were being farmed under the Denrosa banner, were due to be transferred to the Balmoral Estate.

Click here to access the original story.

Honey Trivia

Thanks to the Honey Association for their Honey Trivia (click here for the original article).

Honey Trivia


Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

One bee would therefore have to fly around 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.

The average honey bee will actually make only one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

A honey bee can fly as fast as 15 miles per hour.

It takes one ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world.

A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.

Worker bees are all female.

Flowers have bright markings and strong smells to attract bees and other insects so that they will pollinate flowers. Some also have dark lines called ‘honey guides’ which scientists believe help insects find their way into the flowers.

A colony of bees consists of tens of thousands of worker bees, one queen and sometimes drones (male bees).

The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.

Honey has always been highly regarded as a medicine. It is thought to help everything from sore throats and digestive disorders to skin problems and hay fever.

Honey has antiseptic properties and historically was often used as a dressing for wounds and a first aid treatment for burns and cuts.

Honey lasts for ever – or nearly. An explorer who found a 2000 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb said it tasted delicious!

The natural fruit sugars in honey – fructose and glucose – are very quickly digested by the body. This is why sportsmen and athletes use honey to give them a natural energy boost.

The Romans used honey instead of gold to pay their taxes.

Honey bees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years.

The bees’ buzz is the sound made by their wings which beat 11,400 times per minute.

Bees feed their larvae on pollen or ‘cakes’ made from pollen and saliva, using honey as a source of food during winter months. As they make more than they need, we humans can share the fruit of their labours.

The term ‘beeline’ comes from the ‘bee line’ these clever insects make to the flower of their choice, using the shortest route possible.

When a bee finds a good source of nectar it flies back to the hive and shows its friends where the nectar source is by doing a sort of dance positioning the flower in relation to the sun and the hive. This is known as the ‘waggle dance.’

In Ancient Egypt honey had a role in births, deaths and marriages; it provided the energy and inspiration to create a child, was used to make special honey cakes as an offering to placate the gods and was an ingredient in embalming fluids.

Nearly one million tonnes of honey is produced worldwide every year.

Honey’s ability to attract and retain moisture means that it has long been used as a beauty treatment. It was part of Cleopatra’s daily beauty ritual.

In India , Krishna, as an avatar of Vishnu, has a blue bee in the middle of his forehead. Soma, the moon, is called a bee.

The Greek Great Mother was known as the Queen Bee, and her priestesses were called Mellisae, the Bees.

In Celtic myths, bees possess a secret wisdom garnered from the other world.

In Australia and Africa bees are found as tribal totems.

Product Innovation – Flow Hive

I did promise that I would share my thoughts with you on what may appear across the five variants of the February 2017 CIMA Operational Case Study exams.

Having spent some time scouring the internet and will start to share my resources with you.

The Flow Hive “It’s the beekeepers dream, turn a tap right on your beehive and watch pure fresh honey flow right out of your Flow™ hive and into your Jar! No mess no fuss and the bees are hardly disturbed.” A short video, that highlights the innovative nature of the Flow Hive that may help boost revenues at Mavis Venderby, especially to large scale bee keepers.

Consider the E1 strategic benefits of such a product and product lifecycle issues, F1 and sources of finance required and P1 costing systems to manufacture/set selling prices.

Mavis Venderby – CIMA Operational Case Study Pre-seen Information for February 2017 exams


For all of those sitting the February 2017 Operational Case Study Exam, here’s a link to the pre-seen information that all five variants of the exam are based upon.

You will need to become familiar with Mavis Venderby, for the purpose of the exam, you will bee (puntastic!) a Finance Officer within Mavis Venderby and be expected to understand and apply your knowledge from across the operational level syllabus to the specific issues that arise for the manufacturers of beehives.

I’ll bee-ver away over the next few days to provide some background information on the industry etc..




Past Exam Tasks – Ops ICS – November 2016

The CIMA Examiner will prepare five variants of the Ops ICS exam for each quarterly sitting, I recommend that as part of your exam preparation, you review the documentation from the November 2016 sitting.

DO NOT consider the Marici Power case at all! Use each task to review your approach to identifying the requirements within the task, ensure you have the technical knowledge required to respond accordingly to each task or address your own knowledge gaps. In addition to this, you should also be mindful of the areas that the Examiners Report identifies students struggled with (this will be published when available).

Whilst undertaking your own review, identify if any of the technical knowledge required in each task may be relevant to your case study scenario and thus developing your skill of application to the scenario to tailor your answer and improve your marks overall.













CIMA Case Study Results Explained

In anticipation of CIMA May 2016 results being announced, CIMA have produced an article to explain the results.

The original article can be found here.

Operational Case Study Exam

 Grade descriptors for Case Study exams
Administrator, Editor, Moderator, Staff
20th June 2016

As part of our efforts to improve your learning experience while studying the CIMA Professional Qualification, we are publishing new “grade descriptors” to help you understand your case study exam results feedback across the competencies. Grade descriptors will be implemented from May Case Study exam results onwards.

How should I interpret my case study exam results?

Up to now Case Study exam results have been communicated with:

1. An overall grade (Pass/Fail)

2. A scaled score between 0 – 150 (80 or above representing a pass)

3. Sectional Feedback (An indication of performance against each of the four competencies and integration)

To pass you need to score 80+ and reach a minimum threshold score for each competency (approximately one third of the total marks available for that competency) and Integration.

The only exception to this is Operational level where the marks available for Leadership and Integration are only a small proportion of those available and so it would not be meaningful to set a minimum threshold. No candidate will fail at Operational level on Leadership or Integration for this reason.

Please note the passing criteria above remain unchanged, it is the feedback we provide on your performance across the competencies which has been improved. So, in terms of your overall grade: 

Pass Fail

Sectional feedback

The sectional feedback looks at how you performed against each of the four competencies (Technical, Business, People and Leadership skills) and Integration. This is all aligned to the CGMA Competency Framework. Reflecting the knowledge and skills employers told us they expect to see from finance professionals, at various levels in their organisations.  The framework is what sets the CIMA Professional Qualification and you as a CIMA student apart from other similar qualifications.

Success in the Case Study exams demonstrates your all round competence and employability. Successfully passing your case study exams gives employers the reassurance of your workplace readiness and that you are equipped with the appropriate skills and abilities to perform well in your role. Whether that’s as a Finance Officer (Operational level), Business/Finance Manager (Management level/CIMA Gateway) or CFO/ Senior Business/Finance Manager (Strategic level).

It’s important that you demonstrate your ability across the four competencies as well as scoring enough marks to pass the case study exam. For each competency you will receive a performance rating from one of three categories as shown below:


Grade descriptions are a very useful and objective way of describing the standards of achievement likely to have been demonstrated by candidates awarded a particular level of performance.

The new grade descriptors

Grade descriptions are a very useful and objective way of describing the standards of achievement likely to have been demonstrated by candidates awarded a particular level of performance.

For each level of the case study exam (Operational, Management and Strategic), we have developed a set of grade descriptors to map the performance ratings above (Fail, Moderate and Strong against each competency and Integration.

The grade descriptors are based on the skills and/or abilities expected for different roles. They are part of a holistic system which recognises links between categories and progression between levels. Few of you are likely to be “moderate” or “strong” across or even within all competences. Most exam performance will be a mixture of the categories. Your final result will reflect where you sit overall. Remember, a good in depth answer to all parts of the task requirements will hit the competencies and integration and is the best way to prepare to pass.

How should I use the grade descriptors?

The descriptors at each level are applicable across all variants and case study sessions and they offer a consistent way to feedback on your performance in the exam. Essentially they show you what you are aiming for and will help identify where your performance in an individual competency may have fallen short of the general standard for the level of case study you sat. They are best used in conjunction with the syllabus content and all other study resources available for the case study exams.  When preparing for the exam, you can use them to benchmark your performance and see what you need to achieve to become “exam ready”.

If you have performed strongly across all competencies, the grade descriptors will highlight what you should continue to do and which skills you can build on for future exams.

If you have failed a case study, they will be particularly useful when used in conjunction with other case study resources on CIMAconnect, including the post exam kit for your variant and the “walkthroughs” of real case study answers (available soon) which will illustrate how they can be used to review performance.

Reimagining Retail: 3 Ways Digital Technology is Changing the Way We Shop

An interesting article from Ryan Brady on the future of retail and the impact technology will have on us all. Pay particular attention to the virtual reality software that could help individuals decide on which pair of glasses to purchase or the use of “beacons” to promote eye tests to those passing IC Optical Stores.

Click here to access the original story.

Reimagining Retail: 3 Ways Digital Technology is Changing the Way We Shop

Make no mistake about it—the technology around us is impacting every aspect of our waking lives. We’re living in a time which would make science fiction luminaries the likes of Philip K. Dick blush. With driverless cars on the horizon and drones at our doorstep (literally), our world is undergoing not merely a transformation, but an entire digital reimagining.

We could go into a discussion about how digital innovations are changing every aspect of our lives, but I’d like to touch on how it’s reinventing retail specifically; both for the business owner and the consumer. Here are 3 very exciting technologies that are currently reimagining retail as we know it:

Virtual Reality (VR)

It’s no secret that e-commerce has been a massive (let me re-iterate, massive) game-changer for the retail sector. Large, established corporations are falling by the wayside due to these shifting consumer habits that e-commerce has largely brought about.

But as popular as e-commerce is today, a large number of consumers still prefer to buy in-store. Even Amazon has reverted back to traditional B&Ms. Why? Many shoppers still enjoy the whole ‘experience’ of shopping. It’s both a multi-sensory and social experience that allows shoppers to physically interact with the products before they make a purchase. Indeed, research from TimeTrade Sytems found that 85% of consumers say they prefer to ‘touch and feel’ products in-store before they decide what to buy.

However, virtual reality might soon turn the traditional shopping experience on its very head. Virtual reality is an exciting new area that has huge implications for the future of retail. Imagine donning a VR headset so it feels like you’re actually walking through your favorite store or shopping mall. Now imagine being able to ‘pick up’ and ‘feel’ the store’s virtual products. It could soon become a reality. There is currently much research being conducted on bringing haptics to the virtual world. One company spear-heading the campaign is Gloveone. They have developed virtual reality gloves that allow users to ‘feel’ such sensations as the pattering of raindrops or even the delicate flutter of a butterfly’s wings. This is truly innovative stuff that cannot be ignored.

Even the humble grocery store can’t escape digital’s grasp. Take a look at this ‘virtual’ grocery store in Korea. Shoppers can peruse the virtual aisles (which are really just digital billboards of sorts attached to walls of public places with high foot traffic) and then purchase said items by means of scanning a QR code with a smart phone. The items purchased are then delivered to the customer’s door moments later.

Korean VR grocery store

A Korean shopper peruses the virtual shelves. Image courtesy: lildoremi.org

Another take on virtual reality that deserves a quick mention is the ‘virtual fitting room’. Shoppers can now stand in front of a full-size screen and virtually ‘try on’ articles of clothing without the hassle of dragging them inside a fitting room and (admittedly my least favorite part) putting them back on the clothes hangers afterward. Just check out this video to see the ‘Memory Mirror’ in action:

Internet of Things (IoT)

It’s happening. Almost every single ‘thing’ around us will soon have its own internet connection. What does this mean for retail? Well, a number of things. For starters, beacons will—and are, in many cases—enticing consumers into nearby stores by pinging their smart phone with a coupon code or some other personalized message. There is much debate revolving around the ‘creepiness factor’ of this tech, and whether or not it intrudes on a customer’s personal space. On top of that, Forrester’s Sucharita Mulpuru tells me beacons are the most overrated technology in retail today. Nonetheless, it’s a technology that continues to grow and one we should continue to pay attention to.

image: http://cdn2.business2community.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Sucharita-Quote-cropped-600×334.jpg

Sucharita Quote cropped

Another cool connected thing worth mentioning is the ‘smart’ shopping cart. Living up to its namesake, Accenture’s Chaotic Moon (the same crazy bunch that invented the bio-wearable ‘Tech Tats’) is doing some exciting stuff in the retail space. Blending elements of the IoT, artificial intelligence and biometrics, Chaotic Moon created what they dub the ‘SmartestCart’: a shopping cart that essentially follows you around and helps you navigate the grocery store as you shop. No longer will you have to awkwardly bump into other shoppers as you attempt to read the overhead aisle signage. Another nifty feature is that it allows you to bypass the checkout line when you’re done.

This last example we’ll touch on will appeal to retail store owners. ‘Smart’ digital price tags are a new(ish) technology that can change prices throughout a store with a push of a button. This will not only make it easier to reprice inventory, but will also ensure that the price displayed is the correct price for the product. However, there is also a possibility to change prices that reflect real-time demand—such as during peak evening hours versus the mid-day slump. This is one of the concerns revolving around this technology that, if implemented, would surely destroy consumer trust.


Remember that Philip K. Dick reference I kind of boldly threw out there earlier? Well here’s where we make the connection. Personalized advertising using facial recognition (like from that one scene in Minority Report) may be closer to reality than we think. UK retailer Tesco recently launched ‘digital screens’ that are able to determine a customer’s gender and age in order to deliver personalized advertisements in real-time—making the experience more engaging and relevant for the customer (again, will this pass the ‘creepiness factor’?).

Finally, let’s not forget about payments. Biometrics are finally beginning to influence the check-out process as consumers look for more reasons to ditch their wallets in lieu of a more convenient (and secure) payment option. Right now, fingerprint biometrics seems to be the most popular and intuitive solution, but voice and facial recognition are well on their way.

Technology tends to have a pesky way of exponentially impacting human civilization. The ‘digital disruptions’ we make such a big deal about today will be nothing compared to the disruptions of tomorrow. The retail sector is no exception. The above technologies are just a drop in the bucket—and every day the bucket fills just a little bit more. It’ll be interesting to see, going forward, just how the world of retail will be reimagined in the years to come. And then reimagined again.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑