How Technology Is Transforming Retail
The retail landscape is fluid, changing in response to each new technology. Its direction is limited by more than new technologies alone, however. Established models will be slow to change, if they change at all (think about how impossible it has been to incorporate the metric system in the United States, and you’ll get an idea). With that said, we still have more than a cursory glance at which direction the market is likely to go, and what technology the industry will adapt to improve the customer experience.
Interactive Smart Mirrors
“Smart mirrors” are popping up in a few locations. These mirrors work similarly to the interactive filters on your phones. They can give you side-by-side comparisons of what different outfits will look like on you, overlaying the image of the outfit on top of you the same way your phone can place a dog or dinosaur head over your face. The mirror can even make accessory suggestions to match the outfit. Similar virtual skin-care mirrors can do the same with beauty products.
Smart mirrors are useful for more than just helping customers see how they look in a new outfit without trying it on, though. They are providing new data collection opportunities for retailers and streamlining payments. Using either Android Pay or Apple Pay, customers can purchase an item just by waving their phone in front of a smart mirror.
Embedded Shelf Sensors
A new project from Amazon is allowing customers to pass on waiting in line to check out. Amazon is installing sensors in the shelves of its brick and mortar stores that track item activity. They can note which shopper puts which item in their basket and charge their Amazon account accordingly.
Home improvement stores such as Home Depot are beginning to implement virtual and augmented reality into their businesses. This technology allows shoppers to get a sneak peak at how products will appear in their homes. Using a phone app, customers can view their actual living space and see what the new couch they’ve been considering would look like in the corner.
Micro-location technology allows companies to know exactly where you are — with your permission, of course. This has been in use with a few international companies, such as IKEA and Macy’s, have been using this technology already. It allows two-way communication for customers who order products online. The store is able to send a notification to its customer when their order is ready, and then receives an alert when the customer is within a certain distance. This lets the store prep the order as the customer comes through the door, streamlining the process for everyone.
Nothing here changes the face of the retail industry, because ultimately the industry serves the same function. However, these technologies do focus on streamlining services for the customer. When so many vendors provide similar products, the greatest efficiency coupled with the best bargain wins out, and each of these new technologies work to provide just that.