Even the shortest of glimpses back into history will show you how the retail sector has come on in leaps and bounds not only in terms of variety and choice but also innovation. Beyond that, it has also gone through some generational changes. You may remember there was the high street butcher, fishmonger and greengrocer until the supermarkets moved in and put everything under one roof. Then there were the superstores and the hypermarkets which were closely followed by the out-of-town retail parks and the mega-malls where your every consumer desire could be catered for. Now of course, we are in the internet generation and tech is set to dominate the landscape. It already has a fairly good foothold to be fair but because retail tech is constantly moving at an incredible pace, it is difficult to nail down any specific predictions about where it will go next. Perhaps we can draw some conclusions by looking at how things are at the moment.
Ecommerce is the obvious place to start as this will have been where most people had their first experience with retail tech. The early days were shaky at best but rather than a disaster, the April 2001 crash or dot bomb as it became known was actually the wakeup call that online retailers needed to up their game. Today of course, Amazon is the leading force in ecommerce but if nothing else, it proves that the concept works and smaller retailers shouldn’t be put off.
Certain media seem to have a fascination with scaremongering that the high street is on the verge of collapse and this became most noticeable during the Covid lockdowns. However, no matter how much people like to shop online, they also like to go and shop with friends. They like to be able to touch products and try things on. The convenience of shopping online can’t replace the emotional and social satisfaction of a shopping trip. So, what in-store tech innovations can we see on the high street now that everything is open again. Stores sending you Bluetooth messages as you pass by is something that’s been around for a while but what’s taking off right now is ‘talking products’. The ‘talking products’ are merchandise where the tag contains a QR code. If the consumer wants to find out more information they simply take out their smartphone, scan the QR code and they are taken to a specially designed page for that product with all the information they could need including price, dimensions, demonstration videos and more. A major advantage for the brands is that this obvious innovation generates PR and word of mouth while also being a huge benefit to the consumer.
Another innovation making its way into a number of flagship fashion stores in Amsterdam is the ‘magic mirror’. With this innovation, the customer goes to the changing room and sensors in the mirror are able to accurately take their measurements. They are then offered clothes that will fit perfectly, which is ideal if you are different sizes between top and bottom. Although this isn’t necessarily mainstream yet, you can expect this trend to become much, much bigger as rollout becomes more widespread.
Subscription streaming services have gone through the roof recently and all of the larger players in this area have toyed with the idea using their platform for retail sales. Now, while they would never damage their brand with interruptive advertising, they are open to tie-ins between brands and shows. Imagine you’re watching a cooking show and you like the pans the chef is using. There could be an option to pause the show and buy the pans there and then. If you like the coat someone is wearing in a detective show… you get the point. Tele-shopping has been around since the eighties, but QVC has nothing on this. This is the future.
If you’d be interested in discussing how outsourcing your sales activities could work for your organisation in the retail tech domain, get in touch. We’re always happy to jump on a call.