2020 put businesses across industries in quite a challenging position. Many that struggled to keep up with the disruption reimagined their business models to function in the new normal. Retail is one of the industries that the pandemic affected the most. Although eCommerce and online shopping weren’t new concepts, they took center stage, and many new technologies were adopted to redefine the retail process. 

The modern customer does everything virtually and has started to see the world differently. Therefore, retailers must develop unparalleled innovations to provide unmatchable online shopping experiences that meet customer expectations and changing demands.  

Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Big Data Analytics & Augmented and Virtual Reality have paved the way for digital transformation in the retail industry for years to come. This article will take you through the top technologies and trends that are transforming the retail industry and helping businesses to stay afloat in the current circumstance. 

1. Omnichannel customer engagement  

Omnichannel customer engagement goes beyond making physical stores’ products available online. It is about engaging customers on new online channels such as social media, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar stores, and offering a frictionless shopping experience across various touchpoints. According to a study by eMarketer, cashier-less checkouts, curbside pickups, and streamlined digital experiences contributed to increased shopping frequency and improved sales in 2020. Therefore, omnichannel customer engagement is vital to interacting with customers and providing a consistent shopping experience across channels. Retailers must synchronize various channels such as social media, phone calls, online searches, chats, and physical stores, ensuring customers interact with the business at various points and are provided a personalized experience on each of them.  

2. Data Analytics to track customer behavior  

It is essential to track the customers’ behavior and activities across all channels to create a more intuitive shopping experience for them. Data Analytics allows retailers to monitor the customers’ in-store and online store activities. It gives insights into various metrics such as the number of visits to their store per day, new and returning customers, and the success of their marketing initiatives. These insights allow retailers to make more informed decisions and better engage their customers.  

3. Contactless payments and seamless checkouts  

The need of the hour for retailers is to provide a frictionless customer experience while keeping human touch as limited as possible. Cashier-less checkout technologies and contactless payments are in high demand due to the security, speed, and convenience they offer. Touch-free technology provides a convenient retail experience by scanning each item that a customer picks up using an app and sensors and automatically charging them for the things they have picked. Contactless checkouts will flourish in the retail sector, and retailers are working closely with FinTech companies to build quick and efficient contactless payment models.  

4. Demand forecasting with Machine Learning  

There has been a vast difference in customer demand due to the pandemic. As a result, it has become a significant challenge for retailers to understand and predict customer demand and take necessary actions to meet the shifts in the market and stay on top of the industry. Data and Machine Learning can make forecasting customer demand more accurate while improving inventory management and supply chain management. Machine Learning-based demand forecasting lowers logistics and warehouse expenses, prevents overstocking, and supports sustainable production and consumption.  

5. Hyper-automation with Artificial Intelligence  

Speed, agility, and efficiency are the critical factors that determine the success of a business. Artificial Intelligence-led automation makes the retail processes more cost-effective and the shopping experience more convenient for customers. AI systems can assist the customers by directing them to the store’s exact location and suggesting related items that might interest them. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) enhances inventory management and distribution and warehouse management processes. It eliminates repetitive daily tasks that do not provide any additional value and improves service quality and compliance across the retail value chain. Soon, driverless vehicles and drones will also play a vital role in retail transformation.  

6. Immersive shopping experience with AR and VR  

AR and VR enable retailers to make shopping more powerful and experience-driven. According to a recent study, by 2025, the AR and VR market will reach 1.1 billion globally. Since customers now shop more online than in brick-and-mortar stores, it is vital to give them a seamless ‘try-on’ experience to help them make quicker and better decisions. With Augmented Reality, customers can use their smartphone to bring products to life and see how they will look on themselves or in their homes. Companies like Sephora, IKEA, and Lego use AR and VR to make digital shopping a lot exciting and personalized. In addition, retailers can use experiential marketing and virtual fitting rooms to reduce their operating costs while providing safe and engaging experiences to their customers.  

The future of retail  

The adoption of emerging technologies has saved the retail industry from drowning and help in tackling the disruptions caused by the pandemic. As customers continue to shop and work online, these technologies show no signs of slowing down anytime soon.  

Experion Technologies is helping retail businesses in adopting new technologies to redefine their processes and offer their customers a safe and immersive shopping experience. We are digital architects, domain practitioners, and technology experts working towards fostering a digital retail world. To know more about our services and offerings and discuss potential growth opportunities, get in touch with us.