In the past few years, the news surrounding the state of brick and mortar retail have been largely negative. Online shopping was expected to take a significant share of business away from physical retailers, making them antiquated and practically obsolete. The truth, however, looks far different. Technology has not been the death of brick and mortar stores – it’s actually making them more attractive than ever.
There have been big bankruptcies in the retail sector, such as the recent bankruptcy of Toys ‘R’ Us, but there have also been incredible points of growth, such as Sephora or Ulta Beauty. Despite all the talk of the decline in physical retail, the U.S. Bureau of the Census reports that e-commerce retail sales still only account for about 10% of all retail sales.
The retail industry is undergoing change, and in order to adapt to this change, savvy brick and mortar retailers are turning to cutting-edge technology. This technology is primarily used to improve the customer’s experience – one area where physical retail will always have an inherent advantage over online retail – and includes some of the most advanced technologies in existence today.
7 Emerging Technologies Brick and Mortar Stores are Integrating into their Retail Strategy
There’s a wide range of technology being used in physical retail stores, but there are 7 types that will likely find the most widespread deployment. These technologies represent the biggest leaps forward into a more technological shopping experience.
1. Augmented Reality
Augmented reality is allowing for entirely different in-store experiences for shoppers. Their primary deployment in brick and mortar locations is in the form of smart mirrors, which let shoppers try on clothes virtually without actually having to find the clothes and change into them. This allows customers to try on more clothes than they normally would, and they can even be provided suggestions on coordinating items.
Mobile robots are beginning to be used in large retail locations, typically for interacting with customers. These robots can often answer basic questions and guide customers to the products they’re searching for. Other types of robots are used to autonomously move about the store and track inventory, leading to improved product availability for customers.
3. Contactless Shopping
Contactless shopping aims to eliminate one of the most inconvenient parts of the in-store shopping experience – waiting in the checkout line. Whether it’s through an app or with advanced vision systems, allowing shoppers to simply grab what they need and walk out the door drastically speeds up the process of buying an item in-person and improves the overall experience.
4. Facial Recognition
Facial recognition is a quickly emerging technology in retail. It can be used to identify varying levels of customer satisfaction while they’re shopping, providing deep insight into the effectiveness of various experience-oriented initiatives. It can even be used for payment in a contactless shopping experience to further streamline the purchasing process. Facial recognition is on the verge of mainstream adoption for a variety of uses in retail.
5. IoT Connected Beacons
Internet of Things (IoT) connected beacons can be strategically placed throughout physical retail locations, primarily in large department stores. When customers walk by, if they give permission, they can instantly be sent discounts and promotions on products in their vicinity. This is a great way entice shoppers into making additional purchases while improving their experience by providing meaningful savings.
Blockchain technology, most widely known for its use in cryptocurrencies, has major potential in the retail industry, specifically for the tracking of products throughout the supply chain. This can assure customers when they’re looking at an item that it has been ethically procured – an increasingly important part of the shopping experience for today’s consumers.
7. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is beginning to make its way into the retail industry and it’s working to improve the in-store experience. It’s primarily used for tracking fashion trends and creating predictive forecasts that enable capacity planning and merchandising. All this allows brick and mortar stores to more effectively stock inventory based on the season or current fashion trends.
The 7 technologies listed above are some of the most innovative, disruptive and cutting-edge solutions being deployed by physical retailers today. Each one aims to improve the customer’s in-store experience by making it easier, cheaper and more fun to visit a brick and mortar store.
Technology has not made the physical retail store obsolete. On the contrary, it is making it more appealing than ever. As e-commerce sales inevitably grow, brick and mortar locations will be investing heavily in new technology that draws in more customers.
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