Emerging retail technology trends are shifting the landscape of consumer culture. There’s no doubt that ecommerce will continue to grow in a post-pandemic world. That means shopper habits have changed for the foreseeable future, and weaving tech into our retail world is part of that story.
From easy automation to AI customer service, tech has already been paving the way for a more seamless customer experience. As the digital landscape evolves and customer expectations grow, retail needs to keep up to ensure it doesn’t lose out.
Related content: Technology in Retail Stores: Top 10 Most Used Tech
Staying up to date, keeping relevant, and being ever-ready to integrate retail technology means being aware of the new and emerging trends that are shaping our future.
6 future retail technology trends to look out for
1. Virtual reality in retail stores
Virtual reality is picking up the pace when it comes to retail technology trends. The benefits are clear. VR:
- Helps create a more engaging experience for consumers
- Makes the online world more tangible
- Bridges the gap between the online and the physical when it comes to retail spaces
VR headsets are already finding their way into brick-and-mortar stores. Some retailers offer virtual walkthroughs of their stock, and tech like Google Cardboard allows you to test drive cars on your smartphone.
While virtual reality may still be in a relatively experimental stage, there’s no doubt it’s going to be a major part of our retail future.
From virtual showrooms to virtual try-ons, real estate tours, holiday experiences, and test drives, VR is going to conquer the market – and the stats are backing this up. ABI Research shows that VR tech in retail and marketing is set to reel in $1.8 billion by 2022.
2. AI in retail
The future is now. AI has already been integrated into so much of our retail space. A study from IBM forecasted that AI in retail and consumer products would jump from 40% of companies using it to 80% in the next three years.
From AI customer service chatbots to inventory management, harnessing artificial intelligence can help retailers streamline their services and helps to create a cleaner, more integrated buyer’s journey with less space for human error.
This is especially true for AI inventories that use demand forecasting to up customer satisfaction.
We are entering a world where consumers expect to have instant availability when it comes to their product wants, and AI inventories can keep online and in-store brands well-informed and well-stocked.
3. Augmented reality shopping
With the rise of smartphones, Snapchat (and similar apps), consumers can digitally test a whole host of products.
From beauty products to homewares and fashion, augmented reality shopping lets you virtually ‘try before you buy’. This not only helps consumers:
- Grow their confidence in a product or brand
- Increases conversion rates
- Provides the satisfaction of a shopping experience all inside a virtual space
From QR codes taking you to digital renderings of a shop floor space to face apps that let you test different make-up products, colour matching for interior design brands, and magic mirrors to see how clothing choices will suit – the scope is endless.
4. Autonomous robots for retail
Robots were always a part of our future narrative and they are being increasingly used in the retail space.
One of the most common current areas you will see autonomous robots in is helping to clean retail stores, but they are also being used in other areas. From shelf scanning to providing an interactive experience for customers in terms of answering questions and helping locate items, retail bots will be all about increasing efficiency.
Related content: The Ultimate Guide to Retail Technology
They can also help reduce human time spent on more menial tasks, freeing people up to dedicate more time to customer-facing interactions instead.
One of the most effective ways that robots will work in retail is in data collection.
At European grocery giant Auchan, bots are already moving around the store, photographing shelves, and converting this into real-time metric data. This leads to instant insights into what people are buying, when they are buying it, and what retailers can do to keep pricing and merchandising attractive.
5. In-store beacon technology
A retail technology trend we’re really excited about is in-store beacon technology. Beacon technology connects and transmits information to smart devices, making location-based interactions and searches much easier.
It’s an excellent set-up for retailers who want to:
- Track store visits
- Gain better insights into customers’ offline activity
- Offer personalised interactions
- Drive sales with hyper-targeted ads
In-store beacon tech can help build trust with brands, too.
These small wireless devices are paving the way when it comes to proximity marketing. Retailers have been turning to this simple, yet highly effective, technology to help customers find their way around the store (like a GPS for your shopping experience).
They are also being used to entice shoppers already in-store with targeted discounts. In-store beacon technology helps to double down on that seamless personalised shopping experience, helping to reduce frustration in consumers, track behaviour, and improve conversion rates.
6. Virtual fitting rooms
Another post-pandemic retail tech trend that feels more relevant than ever – the virtual fitting room. The wariness of touching and trying on goods may be one of the lingering effects on consumer behaviour in a post-COVID world.
Yet, there’s no denying that consumers definitely see the benefit in trying items on, interacting with potential purchases, and having that tactile experience. One way to create a safe shopping experience that blends the physical and the digital world is the virtual fitting room.
Without actually touching an item, consumers get the chance to see what they would look like in their desired purchase.
Powered by AI, virtual fitting rooms close the gap when it comes to uncertainty and shopping online. In fact, 40% of shoppers said they would be willing to pay more if they could experience a product first through virtual reality.
Conclusion: Retail Technology Trends for 2022 & Beyond
Technology moves fast, and retail technology trends are no different. Tech is scaling up according to need and demand – and consumers truly do buy into it. We are entering a more integrated world where the line blurs between the physical and virtual experience.
Retailers must adapt their stores and adopt new retail technology trends to reflect this new world. In doing so, you will be future-proofing your business and staying relevant as retail shifts further into the tech space.
Get started with your retail technology solution. Speak to a retail technology solutions partner today.