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    August 2, 2022
    9 minute read

    The Latest Retail Technology Trends (and How To Adapt Accordingly)

    by: Sibel Bagcilar

    In today’s evolving commerce marketplace, being agile is critical to long-term growth and success. According to McKinsey & Company, digital leaders generated 3.3 times the total returns to shareholders (TRS) of digital laggards between 2016 and 2021. 

    To remain competitive in today’s increasingly omnichannel marketplace, you need to regularly assess how — and when — you can incorporate the latest retail technology to optimize everything from your customer’s shopping experiences to your internal operations.

    Provide the Enhanced Omnichannel Shopping Experiences Your Customers Seek

    Today’s consumers want both the ease of online shopping and the benefits of the in-store experience. By leveraging the latest retail technology, you can bridge the gap between these two omnichannel worlds — ultimately providing a more consistent, high-quality experience.

    Augmented Reality (AR)

    Augmented reality is taking a variety of industries by storm — and the commerce industry is no exception. According to a global Think with Google survey, 66% of people are interested in using AR for help when shopping.

    Perhaps most exciting for shoppers is the ability for augmented reality technology to help them visualize what a product would look like in a real-life scenario. While furniture retailers like IKEA leverage AR to enable customers to digitally design rooms, beauty companies like Ulta use the technology to power virtual try-on sessions.

    Incorporating this type of technology into your customer experience could have a major impact on your bottom line: Shopify reports that merchants who add 3D content to their stores see an average of a 94% conversion lift.

    Social Commerce and Livestream Shopping

    Social media platforms have become a critical touch point for driving conversions. According to Salsify’s “Consumer Research 2022” report, 31% of German shoppers, 32% of French shoppers, 36% of U.S. shoppers, and 37% of British shoppers have purchased something directly on a social media channel in the past year.

    And while China continues to be a global leader in the livestream shopping space, this technology is becoming increasingly popular throughout the rest of the world. According to Coresight Research, the U.S. livestreaming market is expected to hit $25 billion by 2023.

    A variety of retailers, from Nordstrom to Petco, are leveraging livestream shopping to drive engagement and reach new audiences.

    Optimize Your Payment and Delivery Processes 

    Flexibility reigns supreme in the omnichannel marketplace. Today’s customers seek brands and retailers who offer a variety of different payment and delivery options to meet their specific needs and preferences.

    Contactless Payment

    Digital wallets are becoming increasingly popular around the world. According to Insider Intelligence, the average proximity mobile payment spending in the U.S. is projected to hit $7,827 in 2026 — nearly doubling this year’s average spending of $4,177. 

    In the U.K., a Marqeta survey found that 96% of consumers have used contactless payments in the last year — and 61% of consumers feel confident enough with contactless payments to leave their physical wallets at home.

    Given these conditions, it’s more important than ever for retailers to invest in the necessary point-of-sale (POS) system and hardware to enable mobile payments.

    Autonomous Delivery

    With ongoing supply chain issues causing stockouts and delays, today’s consumers continue to be concerned about getting their products delivered in a streamlined, quick manner.

    According to the Salsify consumer report, 62% of German shoppers, 66% of French shoppers, 67% of British shoppers, and 68% of U.S. shoppers rank “delivery speed” as a top-three factor when choosing where to shop online.

    To overcome current delivery challenges, more and more retailers may be investing in new robotic technology. Amazon has recently announced the release of its long-awaited drone delivery service — and other companies have already been testing the waters.

    As Forbes reports, robotic delivery business Starship has carried out 1.6 million deliveries since launching in 2016.

    Improve Warehouse Safety and Efficiency

    While many retail technology trends center around optimizing the shopping experience, a variety of new innovations serve to streamline and improve your internal operations.

    Drones

    Today’s retailers are using drones to do more than just deliver products. As wearable technology company Thread In Motion points out, drones can be used to record pallet barcodes and locations in warehouses.

    This eliminates the need for employees to climb up on ladders and get into potentially dangerous positions in order to scan a barcode.

    Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Sensors

    RFID sensors are another powerful tool for increasing warehouse safety. This technology is particularly valuable if a worker gets too close to a risky area.

    Thread In Motion also notes that the system of tags and sensors can create and issue proximity warnings when an employee wanders too close to a forklift route or other dangerous machinery — helping to prevent injuries or even save lives. 

    How Should You Determine Which Technology Investments To Prioritize?

    As with any investment decision, it’s important to evaluate a variety of factors and put a detailed action plan in place.

    Consider taking the following steps when deciding which technology investments to prioritize.

    1. Assess Your Budget

    First things first: You need to understand how much money you’re working with here. 

    Ask yourself the following types of questions:

    • Does your team have an allotted technology budget?
    • If so, what percentage of that budget can be leveraged for new technology — versus existing tools and platforms you’re already using? 
    • What type of approval process do you have to go through to allocate funds to a new technology investment?

    2. Evaluate Potential Gaps and Issues

    Data is your best friend here. Assess patterns gleaned from customer surveys, reviews, or feedback — as well as any analytics you may have into your internal process efficiency.

    Once you identify the areas in which problems most commonly arise, you can evaluate whether a particular investment could help to fill that gap.

    For instance, if you’re a furniture retailer and customers often complain that your product detail pages (PDPs) don’t provide enough information to help them visualize a particular item in their home, it may make most sense to explore augmented reality offerings.

    3. Set Goals and Assess Progress Regularly

    Get the most out of your investments by putting measurable milestones in place and determining a specific cadence for evaluating your progress.

    For instance, if you’re experimenting with livestream shopping for the first time, you may want to set goals around hitting a certain number of views or driving a specific number of purchases via a live event. 

    Essentially, you want to have metrics in place to ensure you’re getting the necessary return on investment (ROI) when it comes to the time, money, and resources you’re devoting to this new project.

    And don’t forget to leverage customer insights where applicable. If you’re using a new type of technology in-store or online, consider leveraging feedback surveys or polls to see if your audience feels their experience is better (i.e., faster or more engaging) as a result of this change.

    Leverage Retail Technology To Adapt, Automate, and Accelerate

    With each new technological innovation comes new opportunities to automate basic, manual tasks — empowering your team to devote their valuable time and energy to more complex, high-impact projects. 

    This approach will not only enable you to streamline operations but will also help you improve the overall customer experience. In fact, according to a Capgemini Research Institute report, 66% of consumers believe that automation can improve their shopping experience by solving the challenges they face when they shop in retail stores.

    By considering how you can leverage the latest retail technology to provide the optimized, consistent, and personalized shopping experiences your customers seek, you can remain competitive in a crowded marketplace.

    Check out Salsify’s “Consumer Research 2022” report for more insights into the latest consumer trends and preferences.

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