Top 10 Technology Trends in Retail
While technology has continued to have a dramatic impact on the retail industry, the spread of COVID-19 has created new technology trends in retail and accelerated current tech best practices significantly.
Between the need for more expansive e-commerce functions, low-contact or no-contact shopping experiences, virtual communication between businesses and consumers, and the digitization of functions like inventory and customer service, here are the top ten technology trends pushing retail into the future faster than ever before…
Digital order management and fulfillment
Retail businesses that are weathering the storms caused by the increased shift to e-commerce that began the so-called “retail apocalypse” long before the impacts of COVID-19 further complicated things have focused on the need for speed and flexibility regarding order fulfillment.
In order to compete with major online retailers like Amazon, Target, and Walmart, among others, shorter windows of time between ordering and having the product in the consumer’s hands are critical. Services like same or next day delivery, BOPIS, or curbside pickup allow for rapid deployment of product, and the key to making this happen is through an integrated platform that allows for accurate and effective management across all sales channels. With multiple sales channels in play, having a single source of digital order management and tracking fulfillment steps is vital.
Integrated POS Solutions
With shoppers less inclined to make casual shopping trips in person, the increase in consumers doing “pre-shopping research” is significant.
This means stores that integrate their POS systems with online search engines like Google that allow shoppers to view their inventory and pricing before coming in-store have a significant advantage over retailers that don’t make that information easily available to prospective buyers. Google search and Google Maps have solutions available that allow for the integration of POS systems, a trend that has particular benefits for local retailers. Google recently acquired one such solution, Pointy, which allows for easy integration.
Inventory and Management Tech
With retailers focused on digital systems, inventory and management tech has also taken leaps forward. With tech tools that offer automatic supply chain management, incorporate AI order management, real-time inventory analytics, and more, inventory and management tech grows increasingly sophisticated. Data plays a huge role in this area as well, with some systems offering sales forecasting and predictive analytics built into the tech.
The Omnichannel Experience
One theme that has been made clear for some time is the advent of the omnichannel retail experience.
Rather than creating conflict between a brand’s brick-and-mortar versus e-commerce channels, savvy brands have created systems that capitalize on the ability to reach consumers from a variety of touchpoints, streamlining the brand’s message and making it consistent across potential points of sale. With more than a website versus in-store approach, retailers have extended their tech to desktop and mobile apps, shoppable social media feeds, and more.
Continuing improvements in driverless tech means self-driving trucks may be making the move from futuristic fiction to reality faster than we thought.
Shipping giants and major retailers have launched fleets inside warehouses and ports, and delivery drones are being invested in as well for last-mile deliveries. The benefits of this future-forward tech include less reliance on business hours, and the ability to weather driver shortages.
A.I. and Chatbots
AI spending in retail has continued to trend upward. The majority of the AI and machine learning solutions in retail have been primarily focused on customer relationships, with almost ¾ of all AI being directly related to customer service experiences. Smart chatbots have become routine on business sites in a variety of sales-based industries, and retail in particular. AI has been used to allow for size sorting on clothing retailers’ sites, measuring consumer preferences, streamline store navigation, and more.
AI serves additional purposes within retail as well, allowing for improved logistics and inventory management as mentioned above, and accruing data for better business decisions.
“A-commerce” or Automation Tech
Automated commerce, or a-commerce, is one of the hottest technology trends in retail currently. Referring to the automation of a variety of steps within the purchasing process, a-commerce can be seen in the form of automatic purchases, (subscriptions/ auto-sending of commonly used items like beauty products, personal grooming, pantry items, pet needs, etc.) marketing automation, and process automation in the back end.
Contactless payment has been around for years now, with ApplePay and other phone-based payment systems beginning to be implemented in some retail locations quite some time ago. However, many smaller retailers were slower to adapt, relying on older payment systems that were not compatible with tap and go. Thanks to the pandemic and the increased desire for minimal touch, contactless payment has surged in popularity.
Utilizing smartphone technology to capitalize on location-based advertising, push notifications, and partnering with other apps, like Waze, Uber, and Lyft to reach consumers in spur-of-the-moment scenarios is a growing way to engage with customers.
Virtual Customer Engagement
With the shift of focus to e-commerce along with the increased amount of isolation many consumers are experiencing thanks to pandemic restrictions, retail has made some changes in order to stay engaged with consumers that are craving human interactions. From online consultations, classes and events, and social media brand ambassador programs, to reviews and social media shopping, engaging with consumers where they are is vital. While virtual interaction remains the norm, retail customer service and community engagement have followed suit.
Moving forward, you can expect some permanent changes to current supply chains and e-commerce volumes moving forward, but the extent to which remains to be seen.
We have a team standing by to help you optimize your retail tech strategies as we move into a new year. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.