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Predictions for 2018 for Technology in Retail

March 20, 2018 | Posted by Lisa Carolan

25324295_s.jpgDigital transformation for retailers is all about focus on things that truly impact the customer experience by simplifying and increasing the accuracy of the sales and fulfillment process through automation. While the most recent JDA and PWC Retail CEO survey showing that digital transformation is the highest investment priority, the question becomes what technologies will they invest in?

The ultimate goal of every retail technology solution should be to create a more personalized customer experience. According to Boston Consulting Group research, brands creating personalized customer experiences through advanced digital technologies and proprietary data aggregation experience faster revenue increase of as much as 10 percent.

For retailers to make the most of technology they must also rethink their business models organizational structure and information management processes. By envisioning all of these components to work together holistically, they can achieve personalization through technology in retail that delivers tangible ROI.

Personalization Via Technology in Retail

Although the technology in the retail landscape has countless emerging tools and platforms, some are poised to gain ground faster in 2018 than others. Here are just some of the most widespread and accessible across all retail sectors.

Chatbots will increasingly become a staple for retail marketers as part of their strategy via websites and social media. Retailers use these platforms to talk to customers and streamline communications by automatically retrieving shipment information, answering questions and completing sales. Their biggest benefit is that they allow for back-and-forth conversation about purchases, recommendations, and further product information which can help with conversion.

Digital price tags will become more prevalent as a means to enable retailers to change pricing in real time to respond to inventory, sales, and other criteria. Increasingly, these tags will be able to help customers locate items quickly without assistance while also supporting restocking alerts. All types of retailers are upping their adoption, as evidenced, national grocery chain Kroger has made a commitment to have digital price tags in nearly 200 stores by the end of 2018.

Digital mirrors that enable shoppers to get feedback on a host of items such as shoes, clothing, and accessories. Working in conjunction with RFID tags, the mirrors can scan the tags and display complimentary items such as shoes and accessories or even facilitate things like short 360-degree videos for side-by-side comparison. They can even send images and videos from the mirror to a friend for instant feedback.

Mobile Payments and mPOS

According to Deloitte, more than 90 percent of consumers use their phones in the shopping process, while Think With Google adds they are using them as an “in-store research adviser.” Consequently, more retailers will be improving in-store experiences with their own mobile initiatives that leverage beacons, RFID, and interactive Kiosks. By keeping consumers engaged with specific products and services, retailers increase personalization in ways that bring bottom line ROI.

Mobile payments will increase as customers demand the ability pay with their phones using Apple Pay, Android Pay, Venmo, Samsung Pay, PayPal or other payment platforms. Mobile payment increases profits for retailers by increasing convenience for shoppers.

Mobile POS (mPOS) will continue to grow due to their ability to efficiently and quickly process transactions and enhance customer service. This will be manifest in more accurate and faster inventory checking, along with customer support throughout the store.

Beacons, WiFi and BOPIS

The growing use of beacons and WiFi for retailers will increase and begin to intersect along with mobile pay and kiosk use moving forward in 2018 and beyond. ABI Research predicts that the beacon market for retail will reach 500 million units by 2021 and Wi-Fi as well as Tablet and Kiosk usage are on similar trajectories.

Whether one or some of these technologies will dominate is difficult to tell as they each have some drawbacks related to IT infrastructure and backend compatibility. For those retailers that are embracing these backend technologies, they can adapt holistically to new customer-facing tech, that brings greater convenience, customer data analysis, and increased bottom line potential.

Buy Online Pay in Store (BOPIS) will continue to grow as retailers step up their website design and UX. This goes hand in hand with the buyers need to see and touch merchandise before final purchase. In-store pickup is not complicated if the retailer enables communication between its online and in-store shopping channels and offers the ability to provide a real-time feed of available inventory to the customer.

Although backend systems were briefly touched on in this blog, the reality is that their adaptability to integration is what will deliver the true gains of growing technology in retail. This ranges from IT infrastructure, cloud integration, application development, and website design to CRM and CMS integration. The retailers that embrace new technologies that are melded to evolving operational mindsets will be the ones that reap the rewards of the implementation of technology in retail in 2018 and beyond.

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