This year has been a year like no other, a statement which is especially true for the retail industry. The mounting concerns at the beginning of the year regarding the robustness of the retail industry and the emergence of COVID-19 have left physical stores closed and retailers quickly thinking of new ways to engage consumers online.
As consumer spending habits continue to change and stores begin to reopen post-lockdown, providing customers with a great shopping experience is no longer just a nice to have – it’s essential to survival, alongside adding value and creating a more human experience. In fact, SOTI’s most recent retail report, From ‘Bricks to Clicks’: Navigating the Retail Revolution, found 76% of consumers want personalized in-store experiences from mobile devices, with 67% believing that retailers who utilize mobile technology provide a faster shopping experience. But what does this mean for the future of technology in retail?
Here are some of the upcoming technology trends retailers need to look out for in 2021:
1. Technology will create a new look for retailers post-COVID
Bricks and mortar shops have long been struggling to increase customer foot traffic, boost sales and engage customers. As a result, offline and online retail has started to merge, as the desire for the retail industry to reinvent itself by investing in innovative technology solutions to improve customer experience increases.
As customers demand both the immediacy of online shopping, with the personal touch of in-store, technology solutions, such as artificial intelligence (AI), hold the key to a successful 2021 for retailers willing to adapt. One such example of a brand using an AI solution is that of H&M, which uses the technology to analyze store receipts and returns to evaluate consumer purchases and trends, producing data which allows the retailer to promote and stock the most popular items.
As technology investment increases, 2021 will provide us with in-store shopping experiences like never before. Whether it’s the increased use of retail kiosks to improve customer service, the emergence of customer service robots – such as SoftBank’s humanoid robot, Pepper – or online retailers trialing bricks and mortar locations, like Amazon Go, the retail industry is due a technological resurgence.
2. Autonomous deliveries will come to life
While retailers have contemplated autonomous deliveries, such as self-driving vehicles and delivery drones thanks to the pandemic, we’re likely to see these delivery methods start to come to life.
COVID-19 has brought with it a vast amount of change and, with customers looking for safe methods of shopping, these contactless forms of delivery will accelerate in 2021. This steep change in consumer attitudes will change the future of delivery mobility but, to make this a reality, retailers need to invest in more robust mobile technologies now, to manage logistics and blockchain, to ensure security along the supply chain.
3. Omnichannel will benefit from the connection of technologies
The connection of technologies, including AI, robotics and the Internet of Things (IoT), will enable retailers to create a truly omnichannel experience, ensuring there is a singular, high quality customer journey. We will see this connection bring online and in-store shopping closer together, adding value for customers in the new year.
Next year will also see the use of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) increase, making both the online and in-store experiences far more interactive for consumers. For example, in-store shoppers will be able to use AR to scan physical products for instant information, and VR will enable online shoppers to indulge in immersive experiences. Makeup brands are already using this technology to their advantage, including L’Oréal, which is allowing customers to virtually try on makeup to match their foundation to their skin colour via AR.
Next year, we will see the convergence of online and in-store continue as retailers look for even more creative ways to use technology solutions to prosper in the post-COVID.
4. Mobile technology will improve the whole chain
Given going back to ‘business as usual’ is looking unlikely for the foreseeable future, those retailers who have previously not invested in their digital strategies are now fast-tracking digital transformation plans in order to survive. Part of this includes large investments in mobile technology – something retailers need to be doing in preparation for the post-COVID world.
In 2021, we’re likely to see mobile solutions enabling warehouse staff to become more efficient, as handheld devices allow them to process orders in less time than traditional systems. Alongside this, logistics staff will benefit from more reliable devices and apps to keep them on the road, and management teams will be afforded complete visibility of the supply chain, from warehouse to shop floor, allowing them to fix any issues quickly and ease the burden of device downtime.
Want more insight into the changing landscape of the retail industry? Check back in for SOTI’s new retail report launching in February 2021.