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  • 25 Nov

The Retail Future’s Bright so let’s put on Google Glasses

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RobotWith technology revolutionising the way we shop what does the future hold?

November 2014: “The way people shop has changed more in the last 5 years than it has in the last 20,” states Alan Morris, Executive Chairman of Retail Assist.

“The age of online has revolutionised the way we shop and we have seen a progression from desktops through to laptops, mobile and tablets aiding our online shopping habits and forcing retailers to reinvent themselves in the digital age.” Continued Morris.

It is now over 20 years since the first widely recognised online purchase of the ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales’ album by Sting, sold for $12.48 plus shipping – and this was just the tip of the retail technology ice-burg.

Over the last 20 years a lot has happened, there has been the launch of pure play e-tailers, such as ASOS and Ocado, whose business models simply wouldn’t exist without technology. In 2004 Facebook launched and become the largest online social media site, alongside later developments like Trip Advisor, in which customers were able to start generating their own online content. We have also seen the launch of the iPhone, and the online trading currency payment system, BITCOIN. Over the last two decades technology has progressed from a behind the scenes support system to an instrumental factor in long-term retail growth.

Consumers are without doubt setting the pace for these changes in retail, and this means that companies have to be agile and fluid in order to keep up. With such exciting and dramatic changes having taken place throughout the last 20 years, what can we expect from the technology of tomorrow?

Predictive Personalisation – Currently when placing a food order online systems remember your previous orders and makes the whole process easier second time round, automatically adding these items to your basket. But in the future this will progress even further with ‘predictive personalisation’ – systems actually recognising and encouraging sales in relation to your likes and dislikes, generating brand affinity – and this will not just be in regards to grocery retailing.

Furthermore this could lead to the movement of computers from back-line to front-line, with the computer adopting the role of the manager, making the crucial decisions that the physical staff will then have to adhere to.

Click-and-Collect – This still holds massive scope for future developments. Not only will the service become more popular, with a predicted 76% of online shoppers using the service by 2017, but will also help to shape and develop the high-street. This Christmas click-and-collect sales are estimated to reach highs of £3 billion, which is a 40% increase on last year. Additionally, retail consultancy firm Conlumino has predicted that each trip to collect click-and-collect purchases will result in a spontaneous spend of £27. With results like this and currently only two thirds of the top high-street retailers offering the service we expect this number to expand rapidly in 2015.

‘Shoppable videos’ – Video content which generates retail sales are already starting to emerge, and with further advancements such as embedded digital watermarks; it will mean that catalogues and televisions will be turned in to shops, allowing us to buy products with the click of a television remote or tap of a mobile device.

When watching an advert on television you will be able to click on a model or characters outfit and be linked straight through to the relevant webpage where you can then purchase this item. This is a definite game changer in the world of retail technology, turning a marketing campaign in to an additional brand touch point.

Speech and Voice Recognition Technology – Speech and voice recognition technology has been around for half a century, but it’s still far from mainstream. Google, have been steadily releasing products that turns voice into text and voice into action. Apple have developed ‘Siri’, the iPhone’s inbuilt personal assistant which many of us have already started to use in our daily lives and enables you to send voice messages, schedule calendar appointments and search the internet. Voice activation will further simplify online shopping, in particular for those who find inputting personal details time consuming and fiddly.

Contactless Payment Technology – Mobile phones used to do nothing more that send text messages and make calls, but the rise of the smartphone and advances in technology have changed all that, opening up many new ways to make payments and do your banking on the move.

Contactless payment technology is the future and account-to-account payments by mobile will soon be available to everyone. Currently most debit and credit cards require customers to enter a PIN to make a payment but already we are seeing that consumers can simply hold their card up to a reader for small value payments. This technology is also being integrated into mobile phones, such as Starbuck’s payment app where you can swipe your mobile phone across a card reader to pay for your items.

Machine-to-Machine – End-to-end technology may seem far-fetched but retailers are already recognising that the technology is out there and that it could hugely benefit both consumers and themselves. Wireless and non-wireless devices will all eventually be able to communicate with each other, in ways we never dreamt possible.

So you’re watching a cooking programme and you want to have a go at making the dish yourself, but you check the fridge and only have half of the ingredients you need. In the future this could all change, your television will be able to recognise when you’re watching your favourite television programme and communicate directly with your fridge to see if the required ingredients are in there. If not it will then communicate with your supermarket to add the necessary ingredients to your shopping list. If your security system was also linked in the supermarket delivery service could gain access to your home and with the help of home security could securely deliver food directly in to your fridge.

Currently all of the individual components needed to make this journey happen do exist; the hard part comes when putting them together to create a seamless customer experience.

Social Feedback and Reviews – “Mirror mirror on the wall, does my bum look big in this?” You are out shopping alone so who is going to help you answer this age old question? Your best friend of course, they simply log on and give you their opinion, instantly.

We all love a second opinion, especially when purchasing clothes, and although this is a little way off the idea is there. In-store technology is already playing a huge part in the customer journey, not only in terms of customer personalisation but also as a part of the omnichannel journey. From magic mirrors, in-store tablets and wearable technology these developments all aid the overall customer experience and journey in a bricks-and-mortar store.

The only way retailers will be able to keep up with changing technologies is to keep up with customer habits and demands. The internet plays a massive role in this, it makes customers smarter and more informed so they are better equipped to make decisions, not only on what to buy but also how they want to pay, collect or get their items delivered.

“Consumers want a convenient and seamless experience so it’s important not to view new and emerging technologies as individual elements but to build them in to existing systems, making them linking sections of your omnichannel offering.” Concludes Morris.

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