It’s an exciting time to be in retail. Even with online giants like Amazon creating a highly competitive playing field, brick and mortar stores are finding novel ways to use new retail technology trends to keep pace. In fact, some retailers are going all out to make the customer shopping experience so seamless and enjoyable that brand loyalty will take on a whole new meaning. The line between digital and physical is blurring with these new retail technology trends, and it’s not a bad thing. As just one example, providing in-aisle checkout via smart devices will be an important factor in improving customer satisfaction by making the store checkout process more like the online shopping experience.
Here are some of the other up and coming retail technology trends.
Knowing the Customer In Store and Out Will Be Essential
One of the new retail technology trends, the omni-channel experience, will become a basic requirement rather than a “nice to have option” in coming years. This means the associate inside the store will need to know as much about the customer walking in the door as possible in order to understand their preferences and anticipate their needs. Obviously getting consumers signed up for loyalty/rewards programs so that their data is readily available will play a key role here.
Think this is too much trouble? The competition doesn’t. According to Chain Store Age, “Three in four (75%) retailers can or intend to identify customers when they walk in the store, including 3% who already do so and 72% who are planning to do so within five years.” Right now, it’s mostly loyalty cards that are used for this purpose, but more advanced solutions using wi-fi and facial recognition software are on the horizon. For now, some retailers like Crate & Barrel are using tablets issued in-store to let shoppers browse during their visit.
IoT Will Revolutionize the Supply Chain and the Facility
Yes, RFID made a lot of noise a decade ago and kind of petered out simply because the cost per unit didn’t make sense for low-cost retail items. But the Internet of Things is not down for the count. According to IoT expert Andrew Hopkins in an interview with CIO Magazine, “Connected devices and products will enable retailers to optimize operations in the face of a more complex supply chain, increasingly important digital channels, and evolving customer demands.”
From tracking inventory and adjusting prices in real time to managing a smart building, sensors and smart tags are the way forward to new retail technology trends. But retail businesses should bear in mind that many IoT projects end up facing obstacles. The most common issue is not having a clear connection between a bright idea and its eventual business value. A smart sensor project should only be undertaken when there is a clear objective and an understanding of what the ROI can be. Also, businesses must understand that they don’t need every single piece of data available to be delivered every few seconds. These days, it’s not the sensors that are the biggest expense. The ongoing costs for data being communicated across the system really add up. Keeping the number of transactions low and laser focused on what’s actually useful for decision-making is the smart play.
Third Parties Are Making the Average Retailer More Shoppable
Stores know they need to upgrade their online shopping experience to keep customers loyal and keep up with retail technology trends. Once a person is actually in a store, the likelihood that they will want to leave and go to three more stores to find a better price or selection is not that great. But the chances that they will get distracted online and go meandering off into the arms of the competition is very high. Retailers that don’t want to reinvent the wheel can now take their online presence to new heights.
And it’s not just about shopping on the main website. Smart companies are using data to help them target shoppers on social media sites like Instagram. According to Anna Curzon from Xero in a VendHQ interview, “Retailers looking to sell their products on Instagram are using solutions such as Like2Buy, Tapshop, and Soldsie to make their photos shoppable.” She gave the example of a major clothing retailer using Like2Buy to purchase an eye-catching item with a few taps.
Even the Basics Will Remain Important in Retail Technology Trends
With innovation proceeding at a breakneck pace, having the time to explore these exciting options is a necessity. For all retailers, the ability to reclaim time spent on recurring administrative tasks is not just about cutting costs, it’s about having the bandwidth to pursue opportunity. That means modern versions of traditional solutions from ERP to workforce management are still in high demand.
On the supply chain management side, near real-time analytics and Business Intelligence dashboards are popular (here’s an example from Microsoft that you can take for a tour). BI dashboards may allow retailers to reduce the cost of logistics, keep up with seasonal demand, and predict trends in consumer behavior with unprecedented accuracy. On the employee management side, there are a slew of applications available to train new associates, improve overall engagement, boost the behaviors that lead to more in-store sales, and help workers socialize around their employment experience in a positive way to increase brand visibility and loyalty.
What about the HR administration side? We also see significant demand for applications that streamline everything from application tracking to onboarding and performance management. To learn more about retail technology trends and the offerings we have that retailers are using to keep up with a constantly fluctuating workforce, request a demo today.