Innovative tech for the retail industry
Shop ’til you drop
Over the last few years, tech developments have been creating more and more ways to make our lives easier. Your weekly trip to the shops is no different.
Here are just a few examples of the most innovative retail tech developments.
Gone are the days where you need a wallet-full of loyalty cards to get the best deals from your favourite stores. With innovative new retail tech, all you need is a smartphone and the right app.
As the size of mobile screens increases, consumers are becoming increasingly confident in using them for online shopping. That means retailers have no excuse for not making their e-commerce process as simple and seamless as possible – creating their own dedicated app is the best way to control this. However, it’s not the only way retailers can improve their service for their customers.
For anyone who’s ever wondered why their local shopping centre needed its own app, here’s the reason: beacon technology.
Beacon technology uses bluetooth to transmit data to an enabled device nearby. So if a shop has its own beacon, it can send news and offers to anyone who walks through its doors.
Experience design agency, Foolproof, have found that consumers are feeling fatigued with all the loyalty card options available, and are even turning down loyalty options when offered. They reckon the best way to keep customers happy is through mobile loyalty schemes. Stores can use beacon technology to send special offers to customers using their loyalty app.
Many local shopping centres are making use of beacon technology through their own app, as well as more upmarket stores like House of Fraser, and even the humble supermarket.
Click and collect
According to consumers, nothing in the tech world has improved their shopping experience more than Click and Collect. Nearly 20% of shoppers said it had changed their shopping habits over the last year.
For those who don’t know, Click and Collect technology allows you to order your product online, then collect them from a store of your choice. That means no home delivery charges, and no need to hunt around for the products you want. Some stores even have a drive-thru, where staff load your shopping into your boot for you.
And for those on a tight schedule who like a little pick-me-up while shopping: Starbucks now do mobile order. Simply order your drinks from their mobile app, then collect from the barista as normal. Dangerously simple.
As much as we love the convenience of online shopping, sometimes you just have to brave going into a physical shop. Retailers know this, so are working hard to make the experience as enjoyable and efficient as possible.
Virtual reality is one way stores are using tech to improve their customers’ experience. By using a combination of specialised headsets and displays, VR technology allows users to be fully immersed in an invented scenario.
Far from being gimmicky, VR is proving to be a useful bit of tech when it comes to giving consmers more choice. Car retailers, for example, have used it to create a showroom that doesn’t actually have any cars in. Perfect when you’re selling a product that has a multitude of bespoke options available. Travel agent, Thomas Cook, has even used VR to create displays of holiday locations, so customers can know what to expect before travelling.
Virtual reality isn’t the only way retail is being futuristically revolutionised. Some online retailers are now using artificial intelligence to provide a personal shopper for customers.
Although there’s nothing new about our browsers remembering our search terms and viewing our history, AI personal shopping services like Mona and Stitch Fix do a lot more than that. The apps use software that allow them to ‘think’ like the user – usually after asking a series of questions about their preferences. The software then uses this information to make product recommendations, becoming more accurate the longer the app is used for.
The aim is that by artificially recreating the user’s decisions, it will save them time by quickly pulling through a selection of items they’re likely to choose. Even if you hate shopping, you can now be so well-dressed that nobody would ever know.
Though perhaps not tech you’d immediately associate with retail, wearables are quickly becoming a useful accessory in the sector.
For consumers with a smart watch, retailers can be even more certain their beacon notifications are getting noticed: they’re pinged straight to the customer’s wrist.
There are other benefits, too. If you have an Apple Watch, you can make use of Apple’s own mobile payment service, Apple Pay. Also available for newer iPhones and iPads, Apple Pay is a contactless payment option. You simply hold your device to the point-of-sale system, and validate with your device’s fingerprint recognition.
Really smart retailers have been using wearable tech to improve their customer service. Giving sales assistant a wearable like Google Glass gives them access to a great deal more information without even leaving the sales floor. And of course, a clued up sales team provides a better service to their customers.
The most innovative uses of tech always find a way to make our lives a little easier, and retail tech is no different.
Of course, there’s a chance retailers may have a vested interest in making their customers happy and comfortable – to encourage them to spend more money. But let’s not be too cynical; anything that decreases the amount of time we have to spend at the checkout is fine by us. Keep up the good work, retail tech.