Technology has greatly reshaped the retail industry in a rush to increase sales by outdoing competitors and appealing to new customers.
Tech advancements have brought upon an era where retail uses tools that help improve productivity and customer relationship through intelligent and interactive business models.
These tools gather data when customers interact with your business—when browsing and shopping—and use this information to understand the shoppers better.
Retail businesses can use that data to tailor personalized experiences and highly targeted and improve customer experience (CX) through them.
The Risk of Standing Still
Globally, the total retail revenue is projected to hit $26.29 trillion, and out of this, e-commerce will account for 13.7%.
Due to the growth of online shopping, the retail industry is under pressure to offer their products online or close shop. For example, Hancock Fabrics closed all its 185 stores after having been operating since 1957.
And it’s happening all over from Staples to Sports Authority and Vestis Retail Group and many others.
Does this mean retailers are dying breed?
Technology is Not the End, It’s the Beginning of New Retail
While some retailers are going down, others have grown despite the conditions.
Home Depot was able to raise its revenue from $5.8 billion to $7 billion within 10 years—thanks to adapting to technology advancements.
Regardless of the situation, as a retailer, you have a fighting chance if you embrace and adopt new technology advancements.
Making preparations and adopting the following technology advancements will transform your retail business and let you become a member of Retail 4.0.
#1 Augmented and Virtual Reality
Customers’ expectations keep on changing, and therefore you should keep up with what they need.
Augmented reality helps you offer customers a completely new type of shopping experience.
Augmented and virtual realities let you integrate the online environment with the in-store experience.
Smart displays will enable you to present your products dynamically.
Smart mirrors, for example, help you give your customers personalized fashion suggestions. It works by analyzing online data such as clicks and conversions about items that are bought together just as a store representative does.
What if a customer can visualize how certain furniture might look in their living through virtual reality?
Retailers such as Ikea are using AR apps to let their customers place items in their homes via their phones, to help them visualize it better and decide whether it fits and blends well.
Alibaba, together with the shopping mall Intime, have set-up smart mirrors that let customers try on different make-ups virtually. Later, they can purchase what they like by scanning a QR code on a vending machine.
With augmented and virtual realities, you will be able to understand your customer better than themselves and present them offers they can’t refuse.
#2 Artificial Intelligence
AI is changing the retail industry in several ways, primarily to improve the customers’ experience.
By 2024, the total investment in AI by retails will top 8 billion, a sign that it has a lot to offer in return.
By investing in AI, you will be able to improve operations by minimizing human errors, improve customer experience, lowering the cost of production and shipping.
Here are a few examples of how AI is utilized in the retail industry.
Digital Assistants and Robotics
Digital assistants come in many forms, such as chatbots, robotics, voice, and touch search panels. Their job is to guide customers through the sales funnel.
The panels combined with chatbots help shoppers locate items, give suggestions of relevant items, and track inventory in real-time.
19% of consumers did a voice search within one year. Therefore, you can as well integrate your voice search AI to your online platform for this market segment.
LoweBot is one such digital assistance robot, introduced in 11 Lowe’s stores. It helps customers by answering their questions or typed queries.
Digital assistants can help you to introduce new trending applications that improve the customer’s interaction.
Check Out Apps
Shoppers are never fond of waiting lines.
Checks out apps eliminate waiting for lines. They allow customers to access the store by using the app to scan a code, and then pick what they need and leave the store.
The app bills the customer automatically from data collected through sensors, deep learning, and computer vision.
Amazon Go is an app that allows customers to shop without going through a check-out.
Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT comes handy in inventory management to avoid in-store shortages.
You can monitor the weight of shelves through “Smart Shelves.” The data can help to alert the management of potential theft.
IoT can help to improve and optimize production by providing manufacturers with real-time data.
Therefore you will be able to provide your customers with the exact items and products they need.
Shopping is now more personal with the help of machine learning. Retailers can anticipate the shoppers need in advance.
Collect data by giving your customers options to join your data collection apps through incentives such as coupons and special discounts.
The information collected can help you to create customers’ profiles, which allows machine learning to categorize information based on similar preferences.
Then through customized calls of actions, you can suggest items and products to your customers. For example, Alibaba Group uses a FashionAI, a system that creates and suggests mix-match apparel to customers while shopping.
Overall, Artificial Intelligence is helping retailers to become more customer-centric and improve efficiency.
#3 Data Analytics
Analyzing data is crucial in improving supply chain management. With big data, retailers have been able to understand patterns and trends better, something that was not possible before.
Data about shipping times, cargo weight, traffic routes, the weather patterns can help to put up automated supply systems, improve transparency, and reliability.
For instance, through data analysis, UPS discovered that they could save 10 million gallons of fuel if their drivers didn’t make left turns.
You can use data analytics in the following ways:
- Forecasting trends
- Increasing operation margin
- Optimizing prices
- Identifying opportunities with better ROI
- Improving customer identification and segmentation
You can improve supply chain management through data analysis and make it more efficient, cost-effective, and transparent.
Wrap Up – Technology Streamlines the Shopping Experience
Technology keeps on changing, and retail 4.0 is reshaping the retail industry. Customers are now looking for new simplified and convenient shopping options
Therefore, you should take advantage of the technological advancements to stay ahead of competitions, attract more customers and, most importantly, increase your sales.
Invest in big data, Artificial Intelligence, virtual and augmented realities to improve your customers’ shopping experience and increase sales.
Ashley Wilson is working remotely as a content creator, writing mostly about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.