Retail is one of the 6 industries most vulnerable to digital disruption, with technology reshaping it in terms of power, consumer behavior and marketplace. If the pace and variety of innovation are anything to go by, this disruption will continue in 2018 and beyond. These innovations have paved the way for some truly amazing retail tech trends.
Embee takes a look at the most prominent retail tech trends that will take the center stage this year.
1. Prescriptive analytics will help to increase sales and margins:
While predictive analytics is widely adopted by retailers, some are progressing onto prescriptive analytics. Derived from user based recommendations, prescriptive analysis will guide Retail businesses to understand what customers really want and accordingly make operational changes. Businesses must use prescriptive tools to confirm – and not replace – decision making. It is believed to help the management unearth business opportunities that either seemed improbable or impractical to achieve through the use of human data analysis. Asos, a UK based leading fashion company, reported a 33% increase in sales after using such real-time data analytics.
2. AI-powered apps will see more adoption:
2018 is the year of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI-powered apps are gaining adoption in every industry, and retail is no exception. It is being integrated across many business units in retail, starting from sales and CRM applications to customer recommendation, manufacturing to delivery and payment services in order to provide personalized retail experiences to customers. With IBM’s Watson providing a wide variety of order management and customer engagement capabilities to eCommerce retailers, Domino’s planning to use robots to deliver pizzas in Europe and Amazon Go implementing check-out-free technology, it can be said that the entire retail experience is going to be automated, and that too, without compromising the human touch.
3. Personalization will continue to play a vital role in digital transformation of retail:
The concept of personalization is getting increasingly important. A study from Infosys reveals that 86% of consumers — and 96% of retailers — believe that personalization has at least some impact on the purchasing decision. However, not many retails are leveraging this demand. In fact, the same study found that almost a third (31%) of consumers wanted more personalization in their shopping experiences. Similarly, a December 2017 study revealed that only 40% shoppers receive personalized service online.
While mobile apps, chat tools and personalized pages are helping stores associates to connect on a deeper level with customers, the time has come to reinvent the processes, to meet growing customer expectations. Brands like Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus have already invested in platforms that enable individuals to shop online directly with their local associates, thereby redefining the ‘co-shopping’ experience. Each associate can create their own version of the retailer’s eCommerce site with live shopping services and personalized products based on advice and feedback from customers.
4. Connecting online and physical store experiences will be instrumental for creating seamless customer experience:
Omnichannel retail is gaining traction as far as refining customer experiences is concerned. Big brands like Macy’s seem to have gained particular success in this area with its, ‘buy online, pick up in store’ (BOPUS) strategy. Per Terry Lundgren, Executive Chairman at Macy’s, “… physical stores are not going away. Customers will always want the option of coming into the store to try on jeans instead of buying three different sizes online.”
To connect the online and in-store experiences seamlessly, store associates need to be empowered with access to real-time inventory across network of stores. Retailers can drive revenue and customer satisfaction with systems that improve supply chain management, warehouse and in-transit inventory management as well as distributed order management. It is going to be imperative to have solutions that can turn stores into fulfillment centers with customer-centric options like ship-from store, in-store pickup, ship-to store and associate delivery. Advanced customer care tools can help retailers stay in tune with customers’ requirements and demands. They can assist associates to enhance customer experiences by optimizing processes like order placement, enquiry and modifications, cancellations, refunds and loyalty programs and more.
5. Voice assistants will be implemented in physical stores as well:
Embee thinks that voice assistants will gain momentum in retail. As per a Capgemini report, 51% of consumers are already users of voice assistants, with 35% using them for buying products and 34% for ordering meals. But what is it about conversational commerce that appeals to consumers so much? Ease of use is the first factor, of course. Instead of dropdowns or checkboxes, voice assistants enable users to ask questions by simply speaking or texting. Next, these virtual agents leverage AI to interpret inputs and comprehend customer behavior. Here onwards, machine learning is used to deliver refined responses and highly relevant options based on consumer preferences. Having access to a large gamut of data, voice assistants can provide users with everything from data insights readily available on Google to field-specific content stored in integrated databases.
While voice assistants are in line with the technological breakthroughs, they also serve as mediators between humans and innovation, helping people adapt to a dynamic digital space. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are the frontrunners in the voice assistant arena. Very soon, voice will emerge as the main interface, bringing back the retail experience of when one-to-one conversations held much importance. Voice interaction, especially for providing information, may even encourage customers to try out more products.
6. Use of Virtual and Augmented Reality will increase:
Global e-retail sales projections show a growth of up to $4.06 trillion by 2020, implying an increasing number of consumers will shop online every year. However, there will always be many shoppers who prefer to hold, touch, or try on the products of their choices before actually make the purchase. This is where Virtual Reality (VR) and its sister technology, Augmented Reality (AR) will help to bridge this gap and literally transform the way people shop. This technology will enable retailers to deliver more engaging, immersive experiences in custom-created surroundings that tie together the physical shopping experience and online shopping ease with 3D experiences. So we will soon have users who can try on clothes without actually travelling to the store. Applications using either technology stand to eliminate customer pain points, elevate customer service, and create a differentiated, personalized customer experience.
Retailers across the globe are investing in innovation to create consistency in consumer experience across stores and online portals, and to boost business efficiency. What about you? Have you decided which retail innovation can transform your business processes? Used correctly, the potential of these new retail techs can be limitless.
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