Innovation

Technology that is weaving retail magic in 2021 and beyond

We explore how technology helping re-imagine retail in both the online and offline space

The inclination towards going phygital is clearly evident today. For retail, there is simply no escaping the fact that consumers, at large, have become more digitally and technologically driven; it’s also more pragmatic today for brick and mortar stores to adopt key elements of the digital experience to better engage customers who visit them. Retail stores are also playing to their strengths of better in-person and personalized experiences for customers to enhance customer retention.

Undoubtedly, the fact that brick-and-mortar retailers were hit particularly hard by the pandemic has forced them to make a slew of changes.  The key question is whether 2022 and these changes shall herald a new age for retail and if there is a silver lining overall? Based on insights from Forbes and acuvate, let’s look at how retail is being re-imagined today in the online and offline space.

Deliveries and fulfillment are autonomous

Automation has made a strong impact on the logistics sector: Self-driving delivery trucks and drone deliveries have been on the horizon for a while, but with the pandemic-driven adjustments we’re making to our behaviour this year, we’re likely to see them come to fruition. Despite the fact that moving to online buying and deliveries decreases the risk of coming into touch with persons who are infected with viruses, there is still a concern about contamination due to inadequate hygiene at order fulfillment centres or delivery networks. Autonomous fulfillment and delivery lower the chance of this happening, which is a feature that will likely expedite the acceptance and implementation of these new technologies.

Chatbots and augmented reality (AR)

So, how can you leverage technology to enhance and enrich customer experiences to a whole new level?

AR could be the answer; when paired with chatbots, offers up a world of immersive, feature-rich shopping experiences by allowing merchants to interact with customers in three dimensions. With an increased preference for digitally-driven experiences, AR-enabled chatbots enable clients to digitally try on clothing or makeup or see how a new piece of furniture fits in their house while adhering to social distance and stay-at-home restrictions.

A few good examples of implementing this technology are Ponds and Estee Lauder: POND’s, a popular skincare shop, has launched SAL, a skin-diagnostic chatbot that uses augmented reality to assist consumers cope with typical skincare concerns such as pimples, wrinkles, spots, and uneven skin tone. One can simply submit a selfie and complete a brief survey, and the chatbot will provide a tailored diagnosis and product recommendations within 60 seconds.

Lip Artist by Estee Lauder is another example. Customers may take a selfie and experiment on several lipstick colours. The bot will also serve as a personal beauty assistant, recommending lip colours based on skin tone, colour preferences, and the occasion.

Cost and safety management using analytics

From cleaning to redesigning layouts for customer and staff safety, store operations are increasingly a C-suite issue for retailers. This necessitates financial discipline, and in 2021, we’ll see a greater emphasis on data-driven cost management and forecasting. Whether it’s maximizing contractor value or documenting sanitation for compliance purposes, data analytics will define store management in the year ahead.

Major retailers have been depending on sophisticated analytics to determine what should be stocked in their stores and create logistics efficiency for some years now, with AI-driven big data retailing developing.

While robots have been aiding with inventory management in warehouses and stock rooms for some time, we may expect to see them on the shop floor soon too. The confluence of various technological trends is helping address key need gaps and previously unaddressed bottlenecks in the retail space. Today, retailers can leverage technology to not only address specific need gaps but create hyper-personalized experiences and find better opportunities for customer engagement.

– Lionel Alva

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