5 technologies set to impact the retail sector in 2019 and beyond

To compete with the recent rise in online sales, traditional bricks and mortar shops are having to explore new innovations and ideas to maintain a strong physical presence. Here we take a look at 5 retail technologies that are set to impact the future of the sector.

1. Cashless Stores

Cashless stores have been a hot topic since Amazon opened their first Amazon Go store in late 2016. Since the inception of the first store, Amazon has opened 9 further stores, and are reported to want to open as many as 3,000 stores across America by 2021. Even more recently in March 2019 the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of NFL team the Atlanta Falcons, became the first professional sports stadium to go cashless. This was quickly followed by the recently opened Tottenham Hotspur Stadium going cashless as well.

However, there’s a vast difference between the two models that Amazon and the Atlanta Falcons and Tottenham Hotspur have implemented. While the Falcons and Tottenham have simply stopped accepting cash, they still require you to check out at a till using either a credit/debit card, mobile payment or various pre-paid card options. On the other hand, Amazon is transforming the checkout process by getting rid of it completely. Their system requires you to install the Amazon Go App, which is linked to your Amazon account. Using various technologies such as computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning. The store can track when you’ve picked an item up and placed items back and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. A little later, after you’ve left the store, Amazon will send you a receipt and bill your account directly.

Benefits of going cashless

  • Increased speed of service and shorter queue’s
  • Increased safety and security
  • Retail staff no longer have to spend time cashing up at close
  • Retailers no longer have to pay for someone to securely collect the cash
  • Future proof your business as mobile and cashless transactions increase in a growing digital world

2. Wearables

Retailers are now using wearable technology to improve their in-house processes and customer satisfaction. Wearables can give shop floor assistants instant access to information such as technical specifications, pricing and stock levels. While also enabling faster communication between staff members.

Wearables can also be used to personalise the customer’s experience. Take a technology store, a customer can come in, and their wearable can send data on what product they require, i.e. a 4k TV, what size and their budget directly to one of the store assistants, who can show them the options they have available instore and what’s available to order online.

It’s not just instore that wearable technology can be used to enhance the customer experience. Sports manufacturer Under Armour has developed connected sportswear that allows users to track their workouts and syncs this data back to Under Armours apps. The idea here being if you were to go for a run and wanted to track your running metrics, you might forget to take your phone with you, or simply don’t like running while carrying a phone. You are less likely to forget your shoes, or enjoying running without a pair of shoes. This connection between the physical and digital product is an excellent example of innovation, but, perhaps more importantly, this allows Under Armour to tap into valuable data insights, which can help them to optimise their services and the ability to improve the customer experience.

3. RFID (radio frequency identification)

Although RFID technology has been around for many years, it has never really been available for commercial use, primarily down to the hefty cost. Today, however, the technology is far less expensive and is ready to be rolled out within the retail environment. RFID technology is a system that allows objects to be tagged, to enable the user to identify, locate and track the object using radio frequency signals.

RFID technology is mainly used by retailers to manage inventory and stock better. If all your stock has an RFID tag attached to it, you can simply use a remote RFID reader (or smartphone depending on the distance) to identify all items on the shop’s shelves, racks, changing rooms and stock room. Furthermore, aside from the increase in speed, RFID tags can allow you to gain more detailed information on products. For example, a barcode scanner can tell you “this is a £50 coat in navy”. Whereas an RFID tag can tell you “this is a £50 coat in navy, size large, that was returned one month ago.”

Aside from the store, there are also benefits to the customer that RFID technology brings. RFID tags can be placed within changing room mirrors to track the item that is being tried on. From within the changing room, the customer can then access information on the product such as, what material is it, other colours that are available and also recommended or coordinating items. Lastly, RFID technology can also be used to enhance how customers interact with the store, by showcasing relevant and tailored content on digital screens as customers walk past.

RFID technology increased River Island’s level of stock accuracy from approximately 70% to 98%, while also enabling them to go from 1-2 full stock takes a year to weekly stock takes.

4. Electronic shelf labels

An electronic shelf label can be used by retailers to display product pricing and helps to bring shelves into the internet of things (IoT) age. Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) help retailers maintain price and provide accurate promotion information. ESLs allows retailers to instantly update prices and promotions in every store, making the manual process of updating traditional shelf labels redundant. The flexibility ESLs provide enables retailers to use promotions and price reductions more strategically to protect margins and reduce waste. Moreover, ESLs also add value for the customer, by being able to display more detailed product and nutritional information than the traditional counterpart. Finally, ESLs help to build trust and customer confidence as they have a guarantee of 100% accurate pricing information.   

girl shopping, electronic shelf labels

5. Smart Shelf Technology

As we know, the world is going ‘smart’. Smart TV’s, smart watches and smart appliances are all used frequently now. Linking into RFID technology and electronic shelf labels, smart shelves can also include personalised adverts, internet of things (IoT) sensors and weight sensors.

In their purest form, smart shelves can be used by retailers to keep track of stock. For example, by using sensors, the shelf will know when a customer has picked up an item off the shelf. When the item is getting low, this will send a signal to the store’s staff who can replenish the stock. The shelves will also be able to notify you when an item is placed on an incorrect shelf, helping to keep your processes more precise. In addition to being used on customer shelves, the system can also be applied to the shelves in the back of house. When the stock is low here, a signal can be sent to the warehouse or original supplier that additional stock is required.

Smart shelves also can improve customer engagement and interact with customers via apps. For example, you can use a store’s app to create a shopping list, and once in the store, the smart shelves can interact with the list and show you the locations of the items within the store. Lastly, using IoT sensors embedded within the shelf, the store can know when you’re approaching a particular item and if you’re signed up to the store’s loyalty programme offer you personalised discounts.

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We'd love to hear from you! We are here to ensure that you don't fall into the trap of tech for tech's sake or avoid technology altogether through fear. For a no-obligation conversation on how technology can positively impact on your customer experience feel through to contact us directly or fill in our short form below.

Simon Young

Vice President Sales UK/Ireland

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