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Digital technology has changed the way we shop entirely; our online experiences and what we now expect in physical stores are now very different from a generation ago. Walking in-store and going around every aisle was the norm until now. We may want to credit the recent global pandemic for the radical change, but some experts say we were already on the path to complete digitalization; Covid 19 just expedited it.

In recent years, omnichannel became the holy grail for retailers. And rightfully so. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies that deliver consistent service quality across different channels keep 89% of their clients, while those that don’t only keep 33%. Online and physical delineated shoppers’ experiences; they were two different encounters. Now, technology is blurring these lines, bringing the online and offline worlds closer together and enriching our daily lives.

Retailers like Acme mastered this. You can browse through the Acme circular for this week, select your goods online and check out. You then go to the store for collection, and the attendants deliver them to you in the car park. They are incentivizing online shopping by providing a $30 discount off your first purchase of $75 or more, and then they give you a warm, personalized touch when you collect your groceries. It’s a new phenomenon referred to as phygital.

Phygital is defined as a shopping journey in which physical and digital encounters are being combined to complement one another. Digital technology enhances physical channels while making digital channels more human. As a result, the experience becomes more personalized and engaging.

Retailers have to keep abreast of new trends and innovations to feed their customers’ demands and expectations to survive. Competition is stiff in the industry; if you lag, you lose. We have seen self-checkout stations, and now the Amazon Go convenience stores have taken over. No queues, no cashier, no self-checkouts, you literally grab your groceries and just walk out.

It is quite fascinating to follow where retail technology and trends are going. If you are intrigued, here are five advancements that will wow you while boosting your bottom line as a retailer.

1. Demand forecasting using machine learning and data analytics

As a retailer, you need to understand how consumer demand is shifting within your environment. You must anticipate the changes and take advantage of them to stay on top.

The demand forecasting process relies heavily on data. Forecasting consumer demand becomes much more accurate when machine learning is utilized. Machine learning will assist you with automatic demand forecasting, inventory planning, logistics, customer and supplier relationship management, production, and marketing. There will be a difference in your revenues as you become more efficient.

2. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Technology

AR and VR are excellent instances of how technology can help your company stay afloat and even boost its profits. Augmented Reality (AR) is a technology that overlays a computer-generated image over your real-world view. It provides an entirely immersive experience.

Virtual Reality (VR), on the other hand, is a simulation in which you can interact with a simulated 3D environment using specific instruments such as electronic eyewear with a screen or sensor-equipped gloves. Virtual reality (VR) nearly totally takes the user from the real world and places them in a simulated one, creating an entirely different experience from what is happening in the real world.

This technology is being used mostly by clothing retailers. They have created apps that use AR to come up with virtual fitting rooms. Customers can try on outfits virtually before making a purchase. They can also try on make-up and jewelry as well. It makes the user experience more engaging, and as Sephora can attest, this technology made a huge impact on their bottom line in 2020 when they adopted it. Lidl, Etsy, and Kendra Scott are few examples of other retailers also making use of this technology. .

3. Voice Assistant Technology

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant; this is what we are talking about here, The retail business is demonstrating that this trend has a lot of promise. Smart mirrors and smart displays, among other IoT devices in consumers’ homes, can help communicate product content in a non-intrusive and useful manner. The assistant needs only to learn the commander’s voice, then using smart speakers, it will respond accordingly. Customers can find products and place orders to make purchases this way. Walmart is using this technology to help customers as they shop on their site. You then collect your order from the store afterward.

Photo by Alex Knight on Unsplash

4. Autonomous Vehicles and Robot technology

We wouldn’t have done this article any justice by leaving out this technology we only thought was made-up fiction from the movies and would remain as such. Here we are today with autonomous vehicles and robot technology. Uber is preparing a driverless robot for deliveries. Safeway supermarkets are experimenting with driverless cars to make deliveries to locals.

Then there’s SmartSight, the inventory management genius. It uses machine learning and computer vision to identify shelves with low quantities of products and those placed in the wrong section by customers. Staff need only listen in and make the necessary adjustments. This means you will no longer lose out on a sale because the item was not on the shelf when the customer wanted it, yet you have plenty in the warehouse.

5. Facial Recognition Technology

If you have frequent customers in your store, it’s easy to identify them and give them a personalized shopping experience so that they keep coming back. If you use loyalty cards, even better, you can identify your customers at point-of-sale. However, if you use facial recognition technology, you will know all the customers who walk in and out of your store.

This technology is smart enough to identify lost or confused customers in your aisles, and immediately alerts your sales staff who can attend to them for assistance. It simply detects changes in facial expressions, that’s how it knows when to communicate.

Most retailers in the US face a huge theft problem in their stores – it’s a $50 billion per year challenge to be precise. Shoplifting accounts for 36.5 percent of that pilferage. Facial recognition technology has been most welcomed in this area. It helps to identify shoplifters, and sometimes, it will compare faces to a database of known offenders and provide alerts for theft prevention.

Be careful to consider the ethical implications of this technology though. It requires user consent so that customers remain in control of their shopping experience.

We’ve listed only five trends, but there are more to consider. It’s critical to think about where these advancements will lead retailers next so that they are prepared and continue to deliver shopping experiences that are expected by consumers, and a richer bottom line.