Retail Technology Trends - How the future looks like through the retailer's eyes

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The retail technology articles we've been writing the past weeks have been eye opening, fun and filled with ideas and insights for all kinds of retailers. Since we liked it so much, we wanted to do an end of the year recap on them, so let's begin:

Display Technologies

In the display technologies for retail we discussed about 4 things:

  1. Kiosks/ Vending machines
  2. Interactive dressing / fitting rooms and interactive mirrors
  3. Immersive displays
  4. Digital displays

Vending machines or kiosks have become widespread and of wide variety, having now the possibility of buying almost anything from one.

Some retailers such as Kate Spade, Bloomingdale's and soon Gap already implemented such a machine into their window displays. Customers would choose an item and arrangements would be made via mobile phones for their delivery, without having to set foot in the store.

Interactive dressing / fitting rooms and interactive mirrors are made with the aid of augmented reality. These interactive dress rooms actually represent a screen with a camera that capture the customer standing in front of them and overlays the chosen clothing items. The clothes move as the customers moves, these screens also offer suggestions of size and of articles that go well together.

Immersive displays are really cool and practical. The biggest example we can give for this type of display is PERCH. The technology allows for items to be showcased both horizontally and vertically. A projector is shining on the products displayed, lighting them up and surrounding them with static or dynamic frames. When the products are interacted with, the display changes, offering "buttons" that offer more information, fun sounds or some beautiful visuals.

The most amazing thing is that this display also gathers information for you so you know which was the most interesting product, the most bought and so on so you have a better understanding of what your consumers want.

Digital displays are used to interact with customers and provide them with information regarding certain products, facilitating things for them, as they don't have to pull out their mobile phone and search on the internet. This also frees up some of your employees' time, helping appoint them to more valuable tasks.

You can use these displays to also promote products and offer suggestions to your shoppers, no matter if they are tablet sized or big screens, the point is to let them interact with the technology.

If you want to know more, read the full article 4 Advanced Retail Display Technologies & Gadgets For Your Store.

Retail technology and apps

In this particular article we talked about quite a few readily available technologies, namely:

  1. RFID
  2. NFC
  3. Beacons
  4. Findbox
  5. Google Indoor Maps
  6. Client Assistance Apps

RFID - A type of transmitter and reader system, that sends information one way, wirelessly, through electromagnetic fields. It requires no battery as it charges from the signals it receives and information is rewritable. A more sophisticated barcode if you want.

The main application of this technology in retail: inventory management, product surveillance, supply management, shipping tracking, self-checkout;

NFC - Yet another tag system that is able to both send and receive information, that functions on radio waves and over a very short distance. No battery, because it has the same charging system as RFID, it is also rewritable, having the possibility to program tags to do whatever you want. It also allows for mobile payments.

Beacons - Low energy Bluetooth transmitters that triggers a certain action on a device when it is in a short range from it.

Main retail uses for Beacons: captures client attention when passing by the store, boosts consumer loyalty & brand app use, provides real time product information, pushes advertising and promotions, offers directions to and inside the store and enables cashless payments.

Findbox - A super smart computer that combines scanning, recognition, guidance, assistance and payment into one entity. This makes for a great store(hardware, craft and so on) helper, freeing the time of your employees to work on more important tasks.

Google Indoor Maps - A simple and free way for customers to find you and navigate through your store.

Client Assistance Apps - Install tablets or touchscreens in your store to help out your customers. For example you can install some in dressing rooms so as to avoid customers having to dress back up, go find the right size or color, come back and wait in line again, it's more about fluidization and creating a fantastic in-store experience.

To gain more in depth knowledge about the these particular pieces of technology and see some clear examples of them at work read the full 6 Retail Apps & Technologies To Improve Customer Experience In Your Store article.

Mobile Apps

With the multitude of mobile apps out there it is clear that retailers had to adapt and focus on a mobile strategy for their brand. In this article we talked about:

  1. Coupons Apps
  2. Branded Retail Apps
  3. Barcode Scanner Apps
  4. Wallet Apps
  5. Mobile POS or mPOS
  6. Omni-channel

Coupons Apps - You know how much people love coupons so why not enroll yours to make sure that customers find your offers.

Branded Retail Apps - Put in short, it is your brand's app. You might think that there is no point investing in such a thing, but as trends go, everything is migrating to mobile, the app is slowly replacing the website in some cases, people spend so much time with and on their phones it would be foolish not to take it into account. Plus the invaluable data you can gather with it, and form more personalized relationships with your customers.

Barcode Scanner Apps - can be integrated into your brand or can be a random one used by customers. The idea is to offer customers more information on the scanned products, saving them as favorites or help them pay via mobile.

Wallet Apps - As discussed in the article, there are two types of wallet apps:

  1. Apps like Stocard allow users to store all their loyalty cards / reward cards
  2. Mobile / electronic wallets which allows users to pay in stores or online with their mobile phones

There are also wallet apps that have both functions, like the Lemon Wallet.

Mobile POS / mPOS - As discussed above, with electronic wallets, mobile POS systems are a natural extension of mobile technology. The mPOS performs the functions of a cash register or electronic point of sale terminal, with the aid of a smartphone, tablet or other dedicated wireless devices. It helps retailers improve customer experience by minimizing check out times and such a system costs less than a POS countertop.

Omni-channel - Is a word that describes an integrated multi-channel strategy that is designed to improve customer experience and data gathering in the back end, that can lead to a more personalized experience for the shoppers. It is the perfect blend between offline and online that makes the shopping experience seamless through multiple channels.

Examples for these apps and more details in the full article Mobile Apps For Better In-Store Customer Engagement.

VR, AR and Gamification

Gamification - means applying game design techniques and mechanics in order to engage and motivate people to achieve certain goals. It implies creating a fun experience, generally via mobile, for customers to enjoy.

There are a lot of benefits for retailers when using gamification, namely: increased employee productivity, increased customer loyalty, higher customer engagement, new customers, data gathering, increased sales and so on.

AugmentedReality - Augmented reality or AR for short, is basically a blend between the real world and the digital world through the lens of a camera.

For mobile, augmented reality requires an app and GPS and a mark or target to be scanned that reveals the hidden information.

For PC's, a browser with a special plug in and a webcam along with the trigger mark, is all that is needed to enjoy this experience.

AR has the possibility to serve as an incorporated advertising or marketing strategy, to engage and enchant customers.

There are quite a few advantages to using Augmented Reality in retail: optimizing warehouse space, enhances brand recognition, enriches the shopping experience, helps search for deals, improves converstion rates and so on.

VirtualReality - Is a 3D, computer generated environment that is explorable and allows for interaction.

CCS Insight projected this summer that AR and VR devices will become a $4 billion business in only three years. Retailers all over the world should be discussing strategies to integrate these technologies into their store experience, just like The North Face did.

Virtual Reality is going to bring the focus on the customers and their experiences / interactions with the brand. It will become the beginning of a new era of shopping.

For concise examples and a more clearer view on the matters, check out the full article Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Gamification in Retail.

The Merry Ending

We've learned so many new things these past few weeks and we hope you did too. The future for retail is bright and beautiful, on all possible platforms, devices and in the real world. You just have to find that special blend that works for you and your customers.

If you are looking for more inspiration we invite you to check out our Christmas Window Display Ideas & Designs article.

We wish you a fantastic New Year both for you and for your business, with the promise to bring you only the most important and relevant retail topics and the best mannequins you've ever seen.

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  • George Blitzer
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