Brick-and-mortar businesses and e-commerce stores alike are expanding their tech adoption. Artificial intelligence-powered “new retail” technologies are opening up innovative avenues for boosting customer experience.
According to a recent survey by business mobility & IoT solutions provider SOTI, 73% of U.S. consumers were in favour of self-service retail technologies in stores.
While mobile shopping has become mainstream, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are stepping up on the scene. These trends enable businesses to meet customers where they’re at, with relevant offers, high levels of customization, and exquisite customer service.
Let’s have a look at 3 of the most prominent new retail technologies that are shaping customer-facing retail.
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#1. Beacon Technology
Beacon technology was introduced as the iBeacon protocol and first used by Apple in 2013. The market is predicted to grow exponentially in the next few years. According to research from Global Market Insights, its size is set to exceed $25 billion by 2024.
It’s amazing how businesses can leverage new retail trends to boost sales and customer engagement. Some of the most successful uses include:
- Mapping the store experience for customers
- Delivering targeted content and information
- Sending discounts and coupons alerts to in-store customers
- Creating mobile-first loyalty programs
- Promoting on-premise events
- Increasing conversion rates & sales (we saved the best for last)
This may all sound like sci-fi, but the future of retail is happening right now. Top retail brands have already embedded Bluetooth beacons in their marketing strategy.
Imagine you’ve just walked into your regular fashion store when your mobile phone beeps. It’s a push notification from the retailer’s app you have installed, welcoming you on the premise.
At the same time, the app is letting you know that the trousers you were just eyeing are now on a discount! Or it may be inviting you to participate in a digital experience for a chance to win $1 million’s worth of gift codes.
Sounds futuristic, right? But this is just what Macy’s did as part of their Black Friday Walk in and Win campaign. Proximity marketing helped them hit two targets: get 16X more users on their app and increase app retention 16X. If you needed any more proof that beacon technology is the next big thing in retail marketing, there you have it!
#2. Visual Search
Although visual search is no novelty for digital leaders, it’s just starting to gain momentum as a disruptor among new retail technologies. According to Gartner, by 2021, brands that adapt their websites to support visual and voice search will drive 30% more revenue from e-commerce.
So what’s the big hype about visual search?
Just like a good old keyword-based search, visual search engines interpret users’ intent based on the images they upload. The most relevant results are then shown using AI algorithms.
One of the major benefits it brings along is a shorter conversion path. Customers can simply snap a picture of the item they’re looking for, upload it, and instantly have access to the respective product on the seller’s website.
You may have heard of Pinterest Lens, a service which uses the company’s visual search technology. It allows users to identify real-world objects and find related items through the app.
Target is among the early adopters of Pinterest’s visual search service. The retail giant first integrated the technology into its app and, later on, its website.
Basically, by taking a picture of any Target item and uploading it, users can learn:
- Extra information about the product
- Which store has it on stock
- Where to find the product in the store
- How much it costs
- Similar items
#3. Augmented Reality (AR)-Enabled New Retail Technologies
New retail scenarios may seem larger-than-life, but the technology is already up and running. Augmented Reality is a huge disruptor in terms of customer experience. It allows shoppers a glimpse into their life post-purchase before they’ve even made a decision.
By integrating AR within their processes, retailers can achieve outstanding results in 3 key areas:
- Cut back on inventory
- Reduce expenditure on in-store staff
- Provide a seamless experience to customers
Let’s have a look at the extent to which new retail technology can enhance the buying experience and shape the future of shopping.
With the motto “Try before you buy”, Ikea’s Place app delivers on its promise. All you need to do is activate the app, select the item to view, and point your smartphone at the particular spot in your house where you’d like to try out your new furniture.
IKEA Place renders true-to-scale 3D furniture items, which users can interact with as if they were real.
With millimetric accuracy, the app allows potential buyers to walk up to the piece of furniture they’re viewing and get a close up of its fabric and colour.
Michael Valdsgaard, leader of digital transformation at IKEA, anticipates an exciting future for new retail technologies: “It could eventually be that you put in contact lenses and you don’t need to look at a phone anymore.”
The new retail journey breaks down the division between e-commerce and physical stores. To stay on top of their game, companies will need to invest in retail tech that empowers customer-centric business models.