The retail industry continues to lurch under the effects of the global pandemic. It’s been almost two years and it is still under-recovery. Brick-and-mortar stores have suffered heavy blows because of the need to lessen physical contact. Although it has led to a marginal increase in the use of e-commerce applications, a reset of retail technologies is long overdue because while people are anxious to go out and do things themselves, they are also reluctant to leave the comfort of online shopping.
So the in-store retail industry currently faces multiple challenges which primarily include declining footfall, competing global e-retailers, and offering convenience and prices which go at par with online shopping. Helping the industry in its endeavor is the emerging retail technologies that are reshaping the shopping experience of customers.
The ensemble of technologies is improving shopping techniques, crafting hybrid trends like BOPS (buy-online-pickup-in-store), and automating lengthy processes to address the pain points of customers and employees. But, there are five technologies that have eyes set on them as these technologies are changing the landscape of retail stores, for both online and offline shopping. Let’s have a look at them.
Automation technology is taking charge of the retail industry. Smart automation services like robotic process automation, NFC payments, marketing and purchasing automation, and autonomous delivery are now being implemented across malls and retail stores. The focus on automation is being considered the key to productivity and enhanced performance as it not only reduces human labor but also makes operations easier, faster, and more intelligent.
So if a customer hasn’t shown up to the retail store for a couple of months, the system automatically sends a loyalty program offered to bring them back. Similarly, operations like keeping track of stocks, updating stock levels, and reordering low-stocked items are also being kept in the loop of retail automation. It would be interesting to watch how this technology categorically transforms the contours of the retail sector.
Voice retail or commerce is another emerging retail technology that is being leveraged for improving customers’ shopping experience. Smart voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Bixby, and Google Voice Assistance are getting advanced and better in terms of responsiveness. Similarly, NLP is also proving beneficial, especially for people who are staying abroad. Voice technologies are helping customers overcome language barriers, providing information on new items, and even placing orders.
Walmart is putting this evolving technology to good use through its Voice Order feature. Customers can use Google Assistant to add items to their Walmart Cart. A remarkable thing is that once you place an order via Google Assistant, it takes note of your brands. So next time when you order, you don’t need to specify your brand. Once the order placement is complete, these items are then packed and readied by Walmart staff. The customers simply have to pick up orders at their convenient time or the orders get delivered right at their doorsteps.
Use of Immersive Technologies
Immersive technologies like AR and VR are getting noticed for making significant improvements. Big names like IKEA, Lenskart, Sephora, and Zovi are already using these technologies to let customers refine their buying decisions. IKEA makes use of AR and enables customers to feel the look of furniture in their homes. Zovi’s marketing head, Monappa Nanlyanda, added that after integrating the provision of virtual trial rooms, the conversion rates have jumped over 25%.
AR-based indoor navigation is extremely useful for users who don’t want to wander the aisles of supermarkets. They can simply follow instructions and land in front of their required items. According to an article in Analytics Insight, AR and VR in retail are estimated to reach approximately 17.86 billion US billion dollars by 2028. No wonder all eyes are glued to the use of immersive technologies.
Be it risk management, supply chain monitoring, or AI-powered inventory management, Artificial Intelligence is evidently capturing the essence of the retail industry. AI can help businesses offer personalized shopping experiences based on buying-pattern analysis of customers. It can help you address the pain areas and thereby help in improving connections with your customers.
Both eCommerce and in-store retailers are now making judicious use of this technology by integrating it into their systems or into their shopping apps through innovative FMCG eCommerce app development. AI-enabled detection technology when combined with AR can even help workers with in-store navigation and detect places and products that need attention. Here are some areas that find ample use of AI:
– Promotion and assortment optimization
– Segmentation of consumers based on buying patterns
– Demand forecasting and risk mitigation
– Warehouse and inventory optimization
The retail industry survives and thrives largely on prolific and wise use of its ecosystems which include ERPs, CRMs, warehouse management software, accounting software, and POS. But as retail grows with the incorporation of new technologies, these systems need to evolve too. Operational ecosystems form the spine of retail stores as they keep the data flowing smoothly.
Cloud-based solutions have already become a vital part of retail ecosystems, but now DevOps is also making its way into it. These development solutions keep systems seamlessly connected with each other which reduces manual labor and brings down the use of extra resources.
It’s difficult to project accurate forecasting of technology trends. The retail industry is fast changing its courses, and COVID-19 has further added to the woes of the retail industry. In the face of increasing competitiveness between online shopping and in-store retailing, it is also confronted with challenges like meeting customers’ expectations, providing detailed information on products, getting real-time feedback, and making better connections.
Adopting the emerging technologies will help businesses to widen their scope but apart from following the trends, one must not forget to observe the little things for those will also help companies to make the right changes. For instance, keep observing the ways of market changes. Try to tap more into social media as customers are more interested in leaving responses there rather than filling out long survey forms.
Given the experiments that are going on with the use of retail technology, one will agree that a little trial and error with other ways won’t cause much harm.
Albert Smith is Digital Marketing Manager at Hidden Brains, a leading Mobile & Web development company specializing in mobile & web applications, IoT, Cloud, and Big Data services. He provides innovative ways to help tech companies, startups, and large enterprises build their brand.