Source: The Current Daily
Global fashion brands Mango and Neiman Marcus let shoppers try on products through their “intelligent mirrors”, while Louis Vuitton is focusing on creating virtual product exhibitions on social media.
As the Internet of Business aptly puts it, “blending bricks and clicks with innovative IoT implementations is looking good for retail, especially for shoppers whose hands are always on their mobiles, at home and in the street.”
Lastly, with the ready-to-use AR kits from Google and iOS, the technology is more accessible than ever. For this reason, over the coming years, we can expect to see it adopted by smaller retail players on the market.
With the current spike in online and in-app purchases, comes the opportunity to better understand customer intent. Retailers, especially those with an e-commerce presence or consumer mobile apps, can leverage the data they collect on consumers and engage in customer profiling and segmentation. This entails analyzing a variety of information, such as in-store activities, purchase history, or a sudden change in shopping patterns.
With such data, retailers can offer heavily personalized, AI-powered offers and increase the average basket size and consumer loyalty levels. For instance, Korean discount store Lotte Mart noted a 5-fold increase in response to product offers after they’ve implemented Amazon Personalize – the very technology used by Amazon to power its own real-time recommendations.
Social distancing has proven to limit coronavirus spread, therefore stores with limited staff and self check-outs are going to take over the retail landscape. According to research by Shekel Brainweigh Ltd, 87% of customers declare that they prefer shopping at stores that provide contactless or self-check out options.
Solutions like mobile cashier or scan and go let buyers pay for their shopping quickly and easily. All they have to do is use their phones to scan the items they're interested in and finalize the purchase in a mobile app. The process is contactless, customers can skip queues, which positively impacts health and safety.
The most prominent example of innovative attitude towards shopping is Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology, which has just expanded to retail outlets outside the US. The technology allows buyers to simply enter the store by scanning the app on their phones, grab the items they want, and leave without checkout.
Source: The Verge
Similar solutions are also being trialed by other players on the US market, such as grocery giant 7-Eleven, who have started testing cashierless stores – initially, only among staff. The brand’s vice president, Mani Suri, says that “introducing new store technology to 7-Eleven employees first has proven to be a very productive way to test and learn before launching to a wider audience”.
Social commerce is on the rise
As of January 2021, it is estimated that Western & Northern Europe have a 79% social media penetration rate, closely followed by North America at 74%. Therefore, it doesn’t come as a surprise that social media platforms are monetizing their presence in people’s lives in what is known as social commerce.
We can expect to see a true e-commerce revolution unfold on Western social media in 2021 and beyond.
Most social media channels let you implement chatbots, which can be used for more than simply responding to common customer queries. They can be easily programmed to help hesitant buyers find the right products and finalize their purchase directly in the chat.
Secondly, Facebook has announced that it will introduce Live Shopping – a module that lets people buy during live stream presentations of products.
Given these advancements, it’s a good time for consumer brands to deepen their focus on social media sales’ potential.
There are several global consumer brands that are already leveraging social commerce – including premium brands Louis Vuitton and Burberry, Dutch accessory brand Cluse, and the popular subscription retailer, The Dollar Shave Club.
Robots as assistants
While robots aren’t an entirely new retail technology and are already employed for tasks like product confection, we can expect to see more sophisticated, autonomous robots pave their way into the mainstream.
Firstly, advanced robotics can be used to keep store and warehouse inventory up-to-date. Thanks to real-time stock management, retailers are better prepared to predict demand, lower product waste (i.e. monitor expiration dates), and boost productivity.
Secondly, with ML and AI advancements, voice-activated robots like temi can also be used in-store. Among others, they can be programmed to help consumers find product information, redeem promotions, or finalize purchase.Other brands that introduced robot assistants include San Francisco-based Lowes, whose Lowe Robot helps customers in store, and Amazon, which leverages robo assistants at their warehouse facilities.
Demand forecasting using machine learning
A lot of retailers wonder how the pandemic will impact customer demand with more brands turning to big data for demand forecasting. Accompanied by machine learning, it became one of the most effective and innovative ways for customer-supplier relationship optimization. It helps businesses better manage their logistics and manufacturing processes and even run smarter marketing campaigns.
Thanks to machine learning retailers can improve their forecasting accuracy which minimizes overstocking and cuts warehousing and logistics costs. Additionally, it comes handy in predicting which customers are at risk of churning and as a result implement some churn prevention tactics.
It is no surprise that a tumultuous year like 2020 has pushed the need to innovate in the retail industry to the limit.
In order to be better prepared for what’s coming in 2021 and beyond, retailers have to pay attention to the top technological trends. These include click & collect, in-store & in-app AR shopping experience, real-time recommendations, self-check-outs, social commerce, robots assistants, demand forecasting using machine learning.
As consumers avoid crowds and visits to offline stores, retailers need to strengthen their digital footprints and implement safety measures in physical shopping environments.
In the end, regardless of whether consumers decide to shop in-store or online, one thing remains unchanged – retailers need to provide the absolute best shopping experience.