Reshaping the Retail Industry with Emerging Technologies

Reshaping the Retail Industry with Emerging Technologies

The world of retail today is witnessing a tectonic shift with eCommerce integration being accepted by the consumer and retailer alike. Now, there is a new point of convergence–personalized and omnichannel retail. The lines between the formats are blurring as retailers are adopting omnichannel to cater to the customer’s evolving purchase patterns and behaviors by merging traditional and e-retail. Digitally native retailers such as Amazon are also moving to a traditional format and opening up state-of-the-art brick and mortar outlets, while traditional stores are expanding their footprint online and via apps.

Consumers these days increasingly have access to products they can personalize, visualize, design and style.  For instance, Nike has its Nike By You that allows customers to literally design their own shoes[1]. Adidas also has an on-demand, 3D printed apparel. Zara provides immersive experiences to customers by using smart mirrors that use RFID to recognize items that they bring to the changing room and give suggestions on how to style them[2]. Tommy Hilfiger fans can now experience runway shows using VR before trying on the latest fashions[3]. A visual search option also allows customers to click a picture of a product and get back several options of similar products across sites via the power of AI.

To flow seamlessly with this shift, retailers in all formats are relying on digital transformation; in other words, they are leveraging the power of tech to stay relevant in a highly competitive and evolving marketplace and connect on a more personalized level with customers. This is a key point of differentiation in a market where consumers are seeking an integrated and immersive experience of connectedness, customization and convenience.

Some retailers are combining the best of both worlds by enabling customers to visit physical experience stores and then buy online or buy on the e-commerce platform and pick up the merchandise in a physical store. The latter is now gaining momentum as the BOPIS – Buy Online, Pick up In Store, with retail giants such as Walmart placing pick up towers in their stores to facilitate this.

Alibaba’s Hema app is innovating even further by enabling customers to scan the QR codes of products in store for further details and make payments online, negating the need to get in line to do so[4]. Amazon Go Stores combine computer vision, deep learning, and sensor fusion technology to create a seamlessness in in-store shopping. Using small beacons that are strategically placed in store as well as mobile points of sale and Bluetooth technology, retailers can greet consumers by name when they walk in[5]. In the near future, most large retail outlets are expected to have robots assisting shoppers in their purchasing decisions.

Taking it even a step further, drone technology is allowing Amazon Prime Air to deliver orders in less than 30 minutes[6]. Very soon, self-driving cars and drones will take over doorstep deliveries, and home assistants such as Siri and Alexa will interact using the Internet of Things (IoT) technology to automatically replenish groceries in households.

With the pull coming in from various directions, enterprises are now seeking to get more intelligent insights into how to acquire and retain customers. According to Gartner, retail tech spending across the globe will increase to US$203.6 billion this year, with a focus on mobile tech, in-store tech and cutting-edge technologies[7]. Emerging tech,such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR),is being sought by retailers to simulate the human factor in e-retail aschatbots replace customer service assistants, and AR and VR create immersive experiences to replicate the touch and feel product experience. The effects these unique experiences have on customers can be turned into data with customer experience analytics solutions.

Just as shopping is no longer a linear experience with a variety of touchpoints and formats gelling seamlessly to create a unified experience, retailers are also looking at platforms that crossformats and can help them become nimbler and more responsive to customers’ needs. Game changers are now everywhere,it is time to get onboard or get left behind.