Retail is one one of the most difficult tests of new technologies. Business is nothing if not efficient. If a technology persists in the retail world than it’s a proven benefit. When technology helps a company increase profits than one can bet it will continue to grow.
In the following article we’ll examine retail technology trends which match both of these criteria. These are tech trends which are useful now, and which will become even more so over time.
7. Voice Recognition
Voice recognition might not seem particularly business oriented at first. But one should consider just how much of a shopping trip involves speech. People talk to their shopping companions. They’ll also spend time talking to sales associates about various options.
And of course, in turn, those sales associates will try to sell various items. They might even note customer opinions and adapt to various tends. Meanwhile computational systems have simply offered basic binary options.
Computers might respond to a command, but they wouldn’t communicate. A new wave of voice enabled devices such as Amazon’s Alexa are changing that assumption. Alexa isn’t just a flagship feature of Amazon’s devices. It’s a way they can actually communicate with customers in real time.
At the moment voice recognition is similar to an especially helpful sales associate. But in the near future it should be able to vastly expand in new directions. It might even be able to know what customers need before they do.
6. Optical Recognition Systems
People working within retail often take vision for granted. One simply assumes that staff can talk to customers and look at any material they bring in. But vision is surprisingly difficult for machines.
At the moment one still needs immensely powerful systems to properly analyze visual data. But cloud based technology can provide easy access to optical recognition for very low prices. Google is currently at the forefront of practical optical analysis.
Google’s cloud vision API even wraps complex math into easy to use functions. Ebay’s mobile app might be the most well known among the public though. Their app can often directly appraise people’s goods. This helps sellers properly price their items before an auction.
5. Increased Adoption of Cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency has been around for a while now. There’s quite a few different types of cryptocurrencies in active use. But bitcoin is easily the most used and well known. Bitcoin first appeared in 2009. It launched as a direct competitor to traditional banks.
But few people at the time took it as a serious contender. Just nine years later it’s a common topic of discussion in even fairly non-technical settings.
Banks are pushing against it. Investors are seeing it as a way to rapidly turn a profit. And more and more retailers are supporting it.
Some notable companies working with bitcoin include Expedia, Newegg, Microsoft and even KFC. But the biggest reason to list it among retail technology trends has to do with lightning. Researchers outlined it in Bitcoin Lightning Network: Scalable Off-Chain Instant Payments. And it’s nearly ready for public use.
Lightning should enable faster and more efficient bitcoin transactions. And this, in turn, makes it a better analog to traditional currencies. Once it’s reached full parity one can expect it to show up in more and more retail establishments.
4. Increased Global Trade for Smaller Purchases
People have talked about a global economy for generations now. The appearance of air travel seemed to mark a point where one can buy or sell anywhere on earth. That was true in theory, but not in practice. A number of issues kept people from reaching overseas markets.
Problems include language barriers, currency exchange, licensing and overall scaling of supply to demand. All of these factors have had major breakthroughs in recent years. New companies are rising up to fill niche markets. In particular, people have started to discover how much one can gain by directly selling overseas.
Online sales from China to the West have gained a lot of attention in recent years. Companies and consumers have found just how much they can gain by pushing past middlemen. It’s among retail technology trends that only happen when technology matures.
In particular, one needs a certain reliability for both internet sales and advertising for this form of sale to work. It’s been possible in the past. But at the same time rather unreliable. Companies like Aliexpress and Wish have proven that there’s a huge market to grab onto.
3. Convergence of Online and on Site Shopping
One can seldom form a concise definition for online and offline convergence. But in general, one can think of it as a way of melding the best of both worlds. Online and offline options exist for good reason. There are outliers who always prefer one over the other.
But most people find each option more convenient due to a wide variety of circumstances. Someone who loves shopping in the mall in a group might hate to do it alone. But convergence provides retailers with flexibility to meet a customer’s variable needs.
Amazon offers some of the most notable examples. Their use of drones for delivery is an in progress endeavor. But their retail technology trends also include integration of various existing technologies.
Amazon drivers now show up on some mobile apps when making deliveries. And customers can already do their grocery shopping online or through Whole Food’s link to Amazon. One can shop through Amazon from a computer or an in store location. Or one can even combine the two through the Amazon locker system.
2. Artificial Intelligence Gains an Artificial Personality
We’ve already touched on the role of voice. But one aspect of voice recognition deserves a separate topic. There’s quite a few distinct implementations of advanced voice recognition on the market. But Amazon’s Alexa is the clear winner in terms of pure appeal. With Apple’s Siri coming in close behind.
The reason these two implementations are popular isn’t just about specs or functionality. Each also showcases some advanced use of psychological science. The systems have a real personality. People feel like they’re speaking to an entity, not a blind script.
This is of immense significance to retailers. People put a huge amount of emotional trust in people they identify with. And if they identify with a company’s digital representative than the benefits are obvious.
Both systems display some impressive flexibility. But one can expect even more advanced features in the future. Apple and Amazon are quite aware of why they’re ahead of the competition.
1. Personalized Shopping for Every Customer
All of the previous items have led up to this one. Combining all of these ideas can create something truly revolutionary. They’re all leading up to a personalized experience that can match the needs of any customer.
There’s an old saying that the customer is always right. But in the future there’s going to be a lot more truth to the idea. New retail technology trends make it simple for customers to shop in a way that matches their personal style.
These retail technology trends are catching on for good reason. They’re usually fairly easy for companies. And customers can catch onto it fairly easily as well.
But in upcoming years these retail technology trends will come together in new and innovative ways. It’ll essentially create virtual customer agents who know exactly what solutions can match a customers needs. A digital entity that knows a customer’s habits even better than they do isn’t science fiction. It’s something that we’re coming closer to every day.
The most important theme in all of these items comes down to equal appeal. One of the biggest mistakes in retail comes down to an inability to empathize with others. Companies and consumers aren’t at war. Most people buy and sell at different points in their lives. Or even just in an individual day.
These technologies provide methods by which both parties can have an enhanced experience. Whether that means finding great deals or being able to enable them.