A massive upheaval is underway in the retail industry which could well impact the very future of how consumers buy their goods. For decades, retailers were content to continue displaying selected wares, advertising their availability, and waiting for customers to come through the door to pick out what they needed. The advent of e-commerce, however, has turned that quaint idea on its head. It turns out that consumers are more than willing to use their smartphones or digital devices to perform their shopping tasks, and then wait for the product purchases to arrive at their door. The devastating results can be seen in the high number of retail bankruptcies and closed stores.
There is still something to be said for the retail experience, but it will need a big boost from emerging technologies to replicate the benefits of the online efficiencies while retaining the uniqueness of the in-store experience. Consumers like to shop, look, touch, and see what they are buying. They want to be able to visualize something in-person, easily compare the alternatives, and receive suggestions for complementary purchases, all with the benefit of instant gratification.
How Data Will Drive the Retail Experience of the Future
To update their business models in a digital-driven age, retailers will need to make faster and more efficient use of consumer data. They need to quickly adapt to and implement some of the emerging technologies which can enhance and improve the in-store purchase interaction:
- Augmented Reality (AR): Retailers can use this technology to seamlessly create an interactive experience that takes real-world elements and augments them with computer-generated perceptual information. Examples might be showing how furniture would fit in the consumer’s living room or bedroom, helping shoppers visualize how a dress might look in different colors, or finding make-up products to match a specific skin tone. According to a report from MarketsandMarkets, the augmented reality market will be worth an estimated $8 billion by the year 2023. Retail applications for this technology are expected to account for a significant portion of this growth.
- IoT (Internet of Things) Beacons: These beacons are small, wireless sensors that use low energy signals to communicate with smart devices that are in close proximity. In a retail environment that needs to carefully manage human resources, IoT beacons can now serve the function of store directory and also notify customers of discounts. Similar to the old-time Kmart “blue light” special, this imparts a sense of urgency while directing shoppers to the potential purchase area. Data can easily be gathered to help the retailer better understand its customers’ browsing and buying patterns. IoT can also help in both inventory and risk management. ABI Research predicts that retail will be a major factor in the beacon market, with sales reaching an estimated 500 million units by the year 2021.
- Mobile POS (Point of Sale): Retailers and consumers will no longer need to be tied down by staid cash registers in centralized locations. Mobile POS can be deployed via tablet-based systems with multiple payment options that make it easier to process transactions and provide enhanced customer service. Employees with better access to information can instantly respond as to whether a specific product is available in inventory.
Similar to Mark Twain’s wry observation, “the reports of the death of retail may have been exaggerated.” Retailers that are able to integrate these emerging technologies to leverage the wealth of data that is available will most certainly be able to survive, and even to flourish. One key factor underlying all of these emerging technologies is the need for fast and secure data management. Data users must utilize a network infrastructure that can provide seamless transmission and analysis capabilities. The installation of big data in the retail environment will require only the best of connectivity, reliability, scalability and redundancy.
PS LIGHTWAVE is the consultative data-connectivity provider for public and private entities in the Greater Houston area. Through our high-quality infrastructure, innovative technology and superior level of support, we deliver not only the best in connectivity and reliability but in scalability and redundancy. You’ll also appreciate that the PS in our name stands for “Pure Speed.” We fully understand that technology is a moving target, and we understand the people and infrastructure of the Greater Houston area. We are nimble, flexible and responsive, and we embrace leading-edge technologies that improve the customer experience. We invite you to learn more. Visit our website or contact us. Concerned about connectivity? Think PS LIGHTWAVE.