We live in a rapidly advancing technological world, where technology is disrupting the way every industry does business. In retail it is helping create better customer experiences, streamline B2B and B2C operations, and provide better products and services. The retail industry in the United States has become heavily dependent on technology and tech-oriented marketing, and the future is digital. So, let’s take a look at what the digital retail future might look like and some of the latest tech shaping the retail sector.
3D Body Scanning
Think of all the times you shopped for clothing and shoes and how each brand fits differently. Especially when it comes to shoes, sizes can be highly inconsistent across brands. This is why retailers and brands are turning to the latest technology to improve the fit of their products. For example, we previously discussed how one Swedish company has designed hardware and software to 3D scan customers’ feet and render a precise model, allowing salespeople to match customers with the right pair of shoes. The technology is already being used by New Balance to provide customers with a personal and faster shopping experience. Similarly, shopping for clothes is also about to get more precise with new scanning technology that can be used through a smartphone. In a Marcus feature on 3D body-scanning apps, analysts looked at how this technology can greatly reduce the ‘nearly’ 30 percent return rate for e-commerce purchases by providing more accurate measurements for apparel. This is because the customer can use their smartphone to order the exact size of clothing compared to the generic small, medium, and large. In fact, some retailers already using the tech have seen a 40 percent decrease in returned apparel.
Physical and Digital Store Integration
While online stores are gaining more and more traction, the overwhelming majority of retail sales still comes through physical stores. While this gap will likely close in the next few years, it’s an opportunity for retailers to leverage both physical and digital e-commerce. The future is all about virtual changing rooms where you can scan an item in-store with your phone and try it on a digital model of yourself without actually trying on the physical item. Former Walmart CEO Bill Simon pointed out how Target is a prime example of a retailer who has used physical stores to complement their digital business to make money. From using curbside pickup options to same-day delivery and buy online pick up in stores options, Target’s customers can make use of both physical and online shopping options for an improved shopping experience.
Augmented and Extended Reality
Retailers now have innovative ways to enhance the customer shopping experience. From browsing products to trying them on virtually, extended reality (ER) offers shoppers an interactive shopping experience. For example, a Forbes feature illustrates how IKEA’s ARKit app helps customers determine whether the furniture they want will fit their space and look good with their home décor. Clothing brands like Tilly’s also offer an extended reality experience that helps their customers explore different clothes and accessories to virtually trying them on to see how they look. ER will soon come to be widely adopted and force brick-and-mortar stores to integrate new and innovative experiences to keep customers coming back.
Retailers are always trying to redefine themselves to keep up with changing customer demands and remain competitive. Now companies are adopting a new and emerging customer to manufactory (C2M) business model, which leverages the capability of AI and predictive data to enable manufacturers to optimize their products in-line with customer demand. Artificial intelligence (AI), big data and computer vision and sensor technologies enable robotic automation like chatbots and unmanned robotic systems in retail scenarios, by leveraging AI tech like deep learning and computer vision to reduce costs and improve the customer experience.
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