Find a retail organization opposed to implementing new technology, and I’ll show you a retail organization that won’t be around too much longer. It may sound blunt, but the technology we’re seeing reinvent retail is truly transformative. If an organization doesn’t embrace it, then they can expect to fall further into their competitors’ rearview mirrors.
Technological innovation has always sparked better retail practices, both for the customer and retailer. The evolution from manual cash registers to self-service checkout kiosks has been a boon for customers’ precious time. Inventory management software has ensured that products are on the shelves when customers need them. Digital signage is one of the most dynamic, cost-effective ways to advertise promotions, display product information, and engage the customer with interactive in-store features.
Today, an increasingly tech-devoted consumer base has forced emerging technologies from the shadows and warehouses into the storefront. Five technologies in particular are primed to enhance brick and mortar experiences in 2022:
Technology 1: Virtual reality
Virtual reality delivers a virtual experience that appears stunningly life-like. All customers have to do is strap on a VR headset and enter a unique world within your stores. We’ve seen VR used for both sales and entertainment purposes, with the best experience combining both..
IKEA created a “high-definition, interactive showroom” for customers willing to put on the Oculus Rift headset. Customers can configure a Kallax shelf unit, Malm bed frame, or any other IKEA product in a virtual rendering of their real-life space. Anyone who has purchased furniture in-store only to find it too cumbersome for their home knows how innovative IKEA’s VR application is.
Lowe’s Innovation Labs took a more educational approach in its VR debut. Lowe’s Holoroom How To, which debuted in limited stores in Spring 2017, allowed customers to complete a sort of handyperson training course. Thanks to the HTC Vive VR headset, there was no mess or actual lifting of tools during this virtual apprenticeship. In the way that National Football League quarterbacks are using VR to practice reading defenses, Lowe’s customers learned and practiced various DIY projects.
There’s no telling which innovative VR experiences are primed to debut in 2022, but I look forward to seeing them. There are few technologies with a greater potential to generate genuinely fun and novel customer experiences.
Technology 2: Artificial intelligence
Retailers are using AI to track and personalize the customer journey. Retailers around the globe were expected to invest $11.8 billion in AI technologies in 2021, and we’re bound to see the fruits of those investments in 2022.
With an endless stream of consumer data being generated, retailers need intelligent, AI-led software to make sense of the inputs. Google has outlined 75 use cases for AI in retail, covering everything from personalized promotions to consumer trends analysis and automated shelf space management. The customer won’t interact with every AI solution that retailers deploy in 2022, but they’ll interact with many of them — wittingly or not.
Technology 3: Self-service technologies
Customers have varying motivations for using self-service technologies. Some see self-service as faster service, while others see it as the most hassle-free way of doing things. Some value self-service for its low-contact nature.
Whatever consumers’ specific rationales for using self-service options, we’ve seen the “unattended retail market” continue to balloon. It’s expected to be worth $46 billion by 2027, with a 7% annual growth rate during that span. Customers are helping drive this growth, but they’re not the only source of momentum. Organizations benefit from self-service, too.
When customers choose self-service options, they free up employees. Where once a cashier attendant spent much of their day standing idly by a register, an employer can now deploy that salary in more valuable ways. Cashiers remain a valued link in the brick-and-mortar chain, but self-checkouts have enabled a more efficient use of employees and labor costs.
From self-checkout kiosks to mobile apps that provide details about in-store offerings, we’ve seen self-service options take on a larger role in brick-and-mortar. Expect that to continue in 2022.
Technology 4: In-store beacon technology
In-store beacons use sensors and Bluetooth technology to ping nearby mobile devices. An organization’s beacon sensors generally pick up on devices that have the store’s app installed on them. Low-frequency Bluetooth signals track a customer’s movements throughout a store, painting a picture of the way they shop — the products they stop and consider and those they breeze by, among other observations.
Beacon sensors may provide location data down the centimeter. In an age where consumer data is veritable gold, these sensors are steadily becoming ubiquitous among major retailers. Their impacts will range well beyond 2022.
Technology 5: Digitized in-store beauty services
Beauty products are especially tricky when it comes to sampling. Rather than trying on actual lipstick, hair color, or nail polish and facing the less-than-glamorous removal process, consumers are increasingly encountering augmented reality solutions that take some of the work out of looking good.
Many retailers like L’Oreal are using virtual try-on technology primarily for online shoppers. In-store use cases are similarly appealing. We may see more mobile-first beauty applications like Ulta’s GlamLab make the in-store leap in 2022.
Technology charting the new brick and mortar frontier
I’m quick to give credit to the timeless staples of in-store retail. Whether it’s a knowledgeable salesperson, friendly cashier, or willing staffer to lug your items to the car, humans may be the single greatest differentiator between brick and mortar and e-commerce. That said, technology is helping chart the new brick and mortar frontier.
Technologies are giving customers new, exciting reasons to come to your stores. They’re providing data that is far more sophisticated than the limited surveys and metrics of yesteryear. Most importantly, cutting-edge tech is helping retailers give customers more of what they want, and less of what they don’t.
In 2022, expect retailers to continue embracing tech, to the benefit of employees, customers, and shareholders alike.
Copyright Networld Media Group DBA Networld Alliance, LLC Mar 1, 2022
This article was written by Bobby Marhamat from Retail Customer Experience. News Features and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.