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Today, we live in a world where online purchases are so common that the first sale via the Internet in 1995 — a book sold on the Amazon website — has become no more than history. The "revolutionary" format of online commerce has redressed customers in pajamas: 40% of purchases in e-shops occur between 10 pm and 10 am. But what's the new point of e-commerce?
This article aims at showing you the latest trends in retail driven by technology. Let's create a picture of its possible future together.
Retail of Today and Tomorrow
After the worldwide coronavirus outbreak in 2019, we saw that the consumer behavior model changed significantly. The share of people buying products online has dramatically increased. What's more, it is predicted to remain at the same level or even continue to grow. Why? Because for now, many people won’t want to waste time visiting crowded retail outlets. Furthermore, online purchases have become a kind of routine habit.
Even a cursory glance at the performance indicators of retail chains shows that companies that fine-tuned the processes of online commerce and related logistics before the beginning of the self-isolation regime are in a more advantageous position during the pandemic. In contrast, businesses where these processes don't work, have faced the last warning, the "yellow card."
But does this mean that companies who have adopted online orders can feel confident about the future and those with undeveloped online trading will be excluded from the competition? The answer is that each needs to reconsider their strategies following the 2021 requirements.
So what is shaping the future of retail? Here are the main challenges for retailers to address in 2021 and beyond.
High health & safety standards
The pandemic has affected the number of store visits because people avoid crowded places, so retailers relying on the brick-and-mortar model need to find their solution.
Acceleration of digital transformation
Because more and more purchases take place on the internet, digital transformation has become a key priority for retailers.
Maintenance of customer loyalty and engagement
The key thought here is that customer loyalty in offline shops does not transfer to those online, so the provision of a seamless digital experience is a must.
Logistics capacity management
Whether the talk is about digital or offline orders, a rise or drop in them, retailers need to ensure that their systems are prepared for the scale of logistics capabilities.
Assimilation with new customer habits
Just one of many habits e-commerce retailers need to adjust to is that most orders today are made at night. So there’s an increased demand for 24-hour support.
So how to address these issues? What solutions are offered by the world of technology and how can retailers take advantage of them?
Technology Trends to Reshape the Future of Retail Industry in 2021
2020 was a highly transformational year for retail. As stores closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, most of the retailers were forced to implement a digital-first approach. Still, there is space for the older brick-and-mortar shops, yet the one that needs some sort of transformation. So here are the key technology trends of 2021 that help retailers to adapt to the changing situation.
Click & Collect
This model of shopping allows buying products online to later pick them up in a store. While it's not new, the popularity of click & collect has skyrocketed due to the coronavirus outbreak, allowing customers to spend minimum time in a shop while buying everything they need.
The advantages of click & collect include speed, convenience, and low cost — everything clients greatly appreciate. For this reason, 2020 saw a 60,4 % Click & Collect Retail sales growth in the U.S. The model was implemented by such world-known market players as IKEA, Nike, Walmart, and Zara.
AR in Shopping Experience
A Global Market Insights report states that the Augmented Reality (AR) market value will reach $50 billion by 2024, showing a 75% growth rate annually. And there's actually no surprise. AR has already taken its niche in automotive and healthcare, so its wide adoption by retailers is just a matter of time.
Even today we can see a wide range of AR-powered technologies used by retailers. Among the major contributors to the speedy adoption of the technology are AR kits from Google and iOS that make the technology more accessible than ever before. So we can confidently say that over the coming years, AR will pave its way to smaller retail businesses to change the game.
But how exactly does AR help retailers to reach a new level of doing business?
- First of all, it can be used to help shoppers find certain products and shelves in the store, as well as check out their price.
- Secondly, it opens up space for in-store virtual product fitting. Such brands as Mango and Neiman Marcus have already implemented AR into their stores in the form of “intelligent mirrors.” One more case is represented by the Louis Vuitton brand that creates virtual product exhibitions on social media.
Allowing users to try on clothes without a need to go to the crowded shops and touching things that an infected person might have touched before. AR helps retailers to address the issues of health & safety standards. Also, it contributes to the increase in customer loyalty and engagement.
Research completed by Shekel Brainweigh Ltd states that 87% of customers choose shops with contactless or self-check-out options. What does this mean for businesses? They need to hear their customers and, as an option, implement solutions like mobile cashiers or scanners that allow making fast and easy in-store payments with a phone. It works as follows: after the item gets scanned, the purchase needs to be finalized in a mobile app. It allows making the whole purchasing process contactless: customers can avoid queues, so levels of safety and satisfaction increase.
One of the best real-world examples of such technology is represented by Amazon’s Just Walk Out Technology. It allows visitors of the store to take items they need, scan them with the mobile app, pay in the app, and leave.But Amazon is not the only business that has leveraged such an approach. Grocery giant 7-Eleven is also on the list of providers.
The Rise of Robot Assistants
Robots in retail are not new. Yet, they are expected to take a wider niche in the industry, become more autonomous, smart, service-oriented, and sophisticated. Tasks that can be transferred to robots can go beyond answering questions of customers, also covering inventory and warehouse issues.
For example, they can address certain issues related to logistics capacity management to allow retailers to be better prepared to predict demand, lower product waste, and increase productivity.
When it comes to in-store use cases, retailers can leverage voice-activated robots like Temi. In addition to helping visitors with finding products and information about them, they can also redeem promotions and finalize purchases.
Machine Learning and Big Data
One more trend that contributes to better logistics management and operation is represented by the combination of Big Data and Machine Learning. Together, they also allow retailers to find new innovative ways to optimize customer-supplier relationship management and create smarter, more effective marketing campaigns. One more useful outcome is advanced analytics that boosts the accuracy of forecasts and minimizes the possibility of overstocking, in this way saving companies money they would usually spend on warehousing and logistics issues.
Our Expertise in the Development of Solutions for Retailers
At Emerline, we are closely watching all the retail trends to provide our clients with top-notch solutions that make a difference and allow them to maintain a strong position in the constantly changing and highly competitive market. Some of the projects under investigation we are ready to offer now are briefly described below.
Grocery Store Mobile App
A custom app that allows getting all information about goods in store (price, manufacturer, distributor, composition, shelf life, promotions, etc.) via QR code scanning. The solution not only allows for online payments but is also integrated with the store loyalty programs/discount cards.
Integrations with other retail systems used within the company ensure effective tracking of all information about customers, allowing increased engagement and loyalty to the brand.
How does it work?
- We create an application with the possibility of QR code scanning and establish the integrations with Apple Pay, Google Pay, and debit/credit cards.
- A customer can scan QR codes on products via the app and get all important information about them. If they want to buy a product, they click "add" and the product goes to the online shopping cart of the app.
- After collecting all products, a customer goes to the mobile checkout terminal where, independently or with the help of a merchant, checks all goods and makes an online payment in the app.
- Afterwards, they receive an online receipt in their app.
Due to severe competition between retail stores, more and more brands are opting for tech-driven solutions that would help them to continuously make fast, safe, and eco-friendly sales. Take advantage of a mixed shopping model (online and offline) to create the ultimate experience that increases sales by making a customer journey more satisfying and allowing your business to become eco-friendly through getting rid of paper receipts.
AI for Personalized Shopping
The development of the solution is based on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies that allow for the delivery of advanced analytics on customer behavior. The solution contributes to the more personalized provision of services, regardless of whether the purchase takes place on the website or off. This means that you’re hitting your customers with the correct message at the right time and place, in this way increasing sales potential. Thanks to advanced analytics, you get an intimate understanding of changing consumer behaviors, wants, needs, and shopping patterns, as well as impacts of social, geographic, economic, and political factors. You can use the data for:
- Product categorization.
- Personalized addressing with welcome texts or product offerings.
- Online shop navigation adapted to demographic characteristics or visitor history.
- Analysis of customer reviews for bettering product chains and product suggestions to the target group.
- Dialogue-oriented online retail through the use of smart chatbots and voice-controlled services developed by Emerline’s team.
- Email marketing for tailoring relevant content to the respective customer.
Potential business benefits of the solution include the ability to deliver cross-channel personalization. Location targeting and unifying customer insights will help you to stay ahead of competitors and win the hearts of your customers. AI solutions help to create seamless, ultra-personalized customer experiences, so you can optimize your trade spendings and improve ROI.
AR Shopping App
We develop the mobile app for retail, enhanced with AR features that enables the close to reality experience and gives the app users an opportunity to enjoy smart and easy shopping. An ability to visualize and digitally examine an item without leaving a comfortable apartment, reduces a product’s return rate. Another objective was to retain customers and attract new buyers, which turned out to be a hot-button issue during the pandemic.
Our AR/VR expertise covers:
- 3D virtual store
- 360-degree view
- Virtual fitting rooms
- Virtual showrooms
- Product customization
- Enhanced catalogs and eCommerce
Brands that have been early adopters of AR technology have seen a significant lift in sales for several years. Our AR shopping app solution helps to bring your products to life to improve the immersive customer experience, increase buyer confidence, and minimize human contact just using smartphones at any time and everywhere.
Are you ready to innovate your retail business? We will be glad to help you in accomplishing all the technology-related goals you set for your company, so contact us to discuss your project at any time!