In retail, geeky is the new sexy. In this intense, competitive sector, technology has evolved from an indulgent luxury to an essential strategic investment that helps companies serve shoppers better.
To remain relevant and competitive in today’s market, retailers are adopting the following tech trends to woo consumers by delivering superior speed, ease and convenience.
- Mobile E-Commerce
Last year total e-commerce sales skyrocketed to nearly $2 trillion, up 9% from 2015, and online shopping continues to grow in sophistication. More retailers strive to imitate the immediacy and simplicity of Amazon’s one-click ordering. A growing number of companies are integrating their online offerings with mobile payment gateways, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay and PayPal so customers have no need to stop and grab their credit card to complete their shopping on their smartphone.1Lindberg, Oliver. 17 Incredible Ecommerce Trends That Will Boost Your Sales in 2017. Shopify. January 17, 2017.
- Mobile Order and Pay
Starbucks recognizes that few people love retail checkout lines, so the chain allows coffee lovers to skip the line by paying online ahead of time. Starbucks’ customer-centric mobile innovation has garnered so much success that the brand is opening its first dedicated mobile order and pay store this week in Seattle. (In fact, this successful feature earned such strong consumer demand that it led to bottlenecks at stores’ barista counters, an issue Starbucks is currently working to solve.)2O’Shea, Dan. Starbucks creates dedicated Mobile Order & Pay store at Seattle HQ. Retail Dive. April 2, 2017.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT essentially refers to smart items – physical objects embedded with technology, which can collect and share data. A well-known IoT retail application is the Amazon Dash button, a physical button that allows shoppers to instantly order such household staples as Tide detergent, Coca-Cola or Huggies diapers. In other IoT retail applications, store managers could use smart tags for real-time product pricing adjustments and retail businesses could use IoT-enabled sensors to automate manual functions like inventory tracking.3Goldman, Sharon. 8 retail technology predictions for 2017. CIO. January 9, 2017.
- Augmented Reality (AR)
To make in-store navigation easier by helping shoppers quickly locate the products they need, home improvement chain Lowe’s will launch a new AR mobile app this month. The app aims to improve the in-store customer experience and free up time for associates to advise shoppers on home improvement projects.4O’Shea, Dan. Lowe’s targets store navigation with latest augmented reality app. Retail Dive. March 23, 2017.
- Virtual Reality (VR)
In retail, VR can help shoppers explore new product possibilities. Home improvement companies use VR to give consumers a glimpse of what their homes could look like if they install the company’s products. For instance, Lowe’s used VR to create a remodeled virtual space for customers to explore.5Matthews, Kayla. The Coolest Ways Retailers Are Letting Customers Use Virtual Reality. Inc. August 9, 2016.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Like Starbucks, Amazon knows few people truly enjoy standing in line. For in-store speed and convenience, Amazon recently announced a new retail innovation: Amazon Go, a brick and mortar grocery store concept using AI in combination with machine learning and mobile payment to eliminate cashiers and minimize long lines. Shoppers simply visit the store and shop for the items they need; the Just Walk Out technology detects what each shopper takes and charges their Amazon account after they leave the store.6 Forrest, Conner. Amazon Go grocery store replaces cashiers with automation and AI. Tech Republic. December 5, 2016.
Whether they realize it or not, consumers who use online texts to interact with a retail company’s customer support center increasingly chat with a computer (rather than a human). More retailers are implementing chatbots as customer service machines to respond to common requests and questions. Chatbots can also recognize when the customer genuinely needs a live customer support rep to address their issue more effectively.7Hyken, Shep. Ten Customer Service And Customer Experience Trends For 2017. Forbes. January 7, 2017.
- Smart Screens
In-store smart screens make the customer experience more shopper-friendly. That’s why retailers like Neiman Marcus use mirror technologies with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, which allow customers to try on virtual outfits in different colors and styles. Fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff added text messaging and touchscreen features in stores, so consumers can order drinks, browse the store catalogue, and communicate with store associates. Bloomingdale’s mounted iPads inside fitting rooms so shoppers can easily ask for help, read online product reviews and see which sizes are in stock.8Goldman, Sharon. 5 cutting-edge retail technology trends. CIO. October 6, 2015.
To stay ahead in this age of omnichannel retail, supply chain reinvention and high consumer expectations for speedy service, Amazon continues to invest in an army of warehouse robots. The e-commerce giant now has 45,000 robots allocated across 20 fulfillment centers, a 50% increase year over year. Amazon’s robots automate the picking and packing process at large warehouses, which boosts supply chain efficiency, so online shoppers receive their merchandise faster.9Shead, Sam. Amazon now has 45,000 robots in its warehouses. Business Insider. January 3, 2017.
As these tech trends prove, customer-centric innovations can help retailers make the shopping experience more pleasant – and even fascinating. These technologies can improve the way retailers serve customers across in-store and online channels, which can ultimately boost sales, loyalty and competitive advantage.
What retail tech trends would you add?
|↑1||Lindberg, Oliver. 17 Incredible Ecommerce Trends That Will Boost Your Sales in 2017. Shopify. January 17, 2017.|
|↑2||O’Shea, Dan. Starbucks creates dedicated Mobile Order & Pay store at Seattle HQ. Retail Dive. April 2, 2017.|
|↑3||Goldman, Sharon. 8 retail technology predictions for 2017. CIO. January 9, 2017.|
|↑4||O’Shea, Dan. Lowe’s targets store navigation with latest augmented reality app. Retail Dive. March 23, 2017.|
|↑5||Matthews, Kayla. The Coolest Ways Retailers Are Letting Customers Use Virtual Reality. Inc. August 9, 2016.|
|↑6||Forrest, Conner. Amazon Go grocery store replaces cashiers with automation and AI. Tech Republic. December 5, 2016.|
|↑7||Hyken, Shep. Ten Customer Service And Customer Experience Trends For 2017. Forbes. January 7, 2017.|
|↑8||Goldman, Sharon. 5 cutting-edge retail technology trends. CIO. October 6, 2015.|
|↑9||Shead, Sam. Amazon now has 45,000 robots in its warehouses. Business Insider. January 3, 2017.|