In-Store Technology: The Future of Shopping in 2021 & Beyond
There is no denying that 2020 has been a turbulent year. With so many challenges, it is no surprise that businesses have been rapidly seeking and adopting new technologies that will help them adapt to a new way of doing things.
These new challenges paired with the wide availability of internet connectivity through mobile devices is also opening doors to technology providers to find new and exciting ways of improving shopping experiences.
In this article, we explore some of the most exciting technologies we are likely to see in stores in 2021 and beyond.
Magic mirror technology is already being rolled out in some forward-thinking retail stores such as H&M. These mirrors can be placed in any location to offer customers a highly interactive experience with the products in that store.
For example, through facial recognition and voice control customers can browse, find and virtually try on clothing. The smart technology inside smart mirrors can also make suggestions based on factors such as previous purchases or completing an outfit or look.
Magic mirrors provide customers with a quick, easy and interactive alternative to a dressing room. The recommendation technology is also similar to having a personal shopping assistant, giving a more complete and luxurious shopping experience.
Data-driven marketing is a powerful way to identify those who are most valuable to your business and target them in a way which both appeals and converts them into loyal customers.
Although the legalities surrounding data collection must be carefully understood and applied, the recent pandemic has led to a golden age in customer data collection, with many businesses collecting tracking data from all those who enter their store.
Data can be collected in many ways, ranging from more traditional methods such as store cards and customer surveys to more modern techniques such as using AI to track customer movement around a store and applying beacons throughout premises.
Collecting data at every stage of the customer journey allows businesses to make highly informed decisions on everything from improving store design and layout to finding products that better resonate with customers and fulfil their needs.
One novel piece of technology that can help stores merge online shopping with a real-world experience is the use of in-store reviews.
One excellent example of this is Amazon’s New York Bookstore. The store is fitted with multiple screens throughout, so shoppers can browse the reviews associated with a book before deciding to buy. This helps the store develop a community or 'book club' feel, which is usually only available online.
Self-checkouts have been available to shoppers for some time, often found in supermarkets as a way to help customers with smaller shops get in and out of the store more quickly and easily.
More modern technology is seeking to speed this process up further by leveraging internet connectivity through smartphones so shoppers can scan items as they shop, pay quickly and leave.
This type of technology has become especially popular during the recent pandemic as it limits the interaction with other humans associated with a traditional check out as well as limiting the repetitive touching of surfaces involved with common self-checkouts.
An example of this being rolled out with success is with the Scan&Go app being used by Asda supermarkets in the UK. The app can be downloaded directly onto your phone, or a dedicated scanner can be picked up in-store. Once you have finished shopping, you simply visit a dedicated screen, scan a QR code and pay for your items.
Amazon has taken this one step further with Amazon Go. By combining machine learning, AI and sensor technology, Amazon Go lets you scan your phone when you walk into a store, pick up what you need and walk out – automatically paying for it as you leave.
Smart devices are making it easier than ever to access data on your customers’ location. This information can be applied in multiple ways to improve marketing, boost sales and develop a better customer experience.
In larger stores, precise location tracking can help customers easily find what they are looking for. This can take a lot of leg work out of physical shopping, making for a much more enjoyable experience. From a marketing point of view, you can use location intelligence to send personalised marketing messages to those who are close to your store.
Pop-up shops can also benefit from location intelligence. Large premises that have extensive data on customer footfall can make highly informed decisions about where best to locate pop up shops for the best results.
Combined Customer Experience
As the convenience of online shopping continues to capture a larger market share, the experience customers receive when visiting a physical shop has become increasingly important.
The future of shopping isn’t necessarily online or in-person, but a seamless combination of the two.
One way stores are enabling this crossover is via the use of 360 tours. These tours offer customer insight into the store experience from the comfort of their own home where they can browse products and even buy via links embedded in the tour. A 360 tour is a fantastic tool during pandemics where customers are feeling nervous about coming in store. They can also be a powerful marketing tool, capturing customers’ imaginations and encouraging them to come in-store.
Forward-thinking technology companies are also connecting online shopping with store experiences through smart communications. For example, app companies like Hero are making it easier for online shoppers to connect directly to staff in a local store. This crossover allows online sales to be attributed to individual stores and staff as well as encouraging shoppers to come into the store after initial contacts have been made.
Smart display technology is helping businesses make shopping experiences more exciting and interactive. By adopting transparent OLED screens in window and in store displays, businesses can get creative by combining real-life products with digital overlays.
Touch screen technology is also helping make this technology more interactive and effective at capturing the imaginations of potential shoppers.
As the world becomes increasingly digitally driven, the role of physical stores is moving away from convenience and towards creating great consumer experiences. The trends we have explored in this article highlight how businesses can be planning and investing in tech which is going to make this crossover easier and more profitable, as well as more fun and interactive for the consumers. It is the time of putting the consumer first, safeguard their experience at each interaction, and engage through all channels.